Extreme obesity is a physical disability. There are, however, a large number of obese people (65% of American adults are overweight or obese according to the National Center for Health Statistics) who are not disabled and have no problem working. They might very well be interested in products targeted to the very obese. These might include bathing suits that are figure flattering, herbal supplements, special bathtubs, etc.
In order to illustrate the scope of the issues involved in multicultural group marketing to the disabled, this paper examines several broad categories of disability: disabilities due to limitations in vision, hearing, speech, learning, mobility, and mental /emotional functioning.
Marketing to the Visually Impaired
There are more than 10,000,000 people in the United States who are either blind or visually impaired (American Foundation for the Blind, 2006). Age-related diseases such as macular degeneration are the major cause of visual impairment. Unfortunately, this means that the number of visually-impaired individuals will increase dramatically as the 77 million baby boomers in the United States become elderly. While age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy can cause widespread low vision problems and can result in depression and social isolation, there are a number of lifestyle adaptations, adaptive devices, and rehabilitation services that can help improve functioning and productivity (Brody, 2006). The American Foundation for the Blind Technology and Employment Center tests products for companies and provides them with valuable information as to their suitability for the visually impaired. Cantley-Falk (2004) describes the types of problems that arise when a firm ignores the needs of the visually impaired. Some products, such ovens with flat touch screens rather than knobs, are nightmares for the visually impaired. Many products require very slight modifications to make them visually-impaired friendly, e.g., a talking watch or a big button telephone; adding a tiny number that can be felt by the fingertips is also a big plus. Voting machines are being modified so that the visually impaired will be able to vote. The computer industry has done a great deal to make the computer accessible to the blind and visually impaired. In fact, a large number of blind and visually impaired individuals work in the computer industry. They use the Internet and computers to the same degree as the general population American Foundation for the Blind. The major modification is not being able to see the cursor. Of course, the computer keyboard can easily be made usable for the blind via raised letters and numbers that can be felt by the fingertips. Voice recognition software is also making it easy for the visually impaired to work in numerous industries. Those who have vision problems have difficulty with cell phone buttons since they are so small. Some are interested in pre-programmed phones with only a few buttons: one for a relative and one for 911 to be used in an emergency (Wildstrom, 2005).
Schools are legally required to provide classrooms that allow children with vision problems and dyslexia to have access to computers. A number of companies have solved the problem using devices that include screen magnifiers and speech synthesizers (that convert text to speech). There are “screen reading” programs for those whose vision is so poor that screen magnification is insufficient. These text readers allow individuals with vision impairments to