In the past few years, I started learning about how it’s important to try and shop from small local businesses. I didn’t realize the impact until the pandemic set in. Seeing the impact caused me to reflect on my journey and how I was able to make it work as a legally blind student living in a large city.
I went to my first Craft Fair and Farmer’s Market when I was 13 and I absolutely loved the community. This was also around the time where I was forming my own strong beliefs and opinions. I remember talking to vendors about the environment and other social justice issues we were all passionate about. It was also educational because I was able to learn about other cultures and directly support people from various marginalized groups.
The most important piece of advice I have is to find a balance and be kind to yourself. Especially during these times, it might be safer to use Instacart and DoorDash. Buying directly from a small restaurant or shop is a great way to show support. Even browsing around instead of going directly to Amazon is showing conscious consumerism. If regularly buying from local businesses isn’t feasible, donating 1 or 2 dollars to a local not-for-profit or charity could help make a significant impact in someone’s life.
When it comes to going to a Craft Fair or Farmer’s Market in person, I typically go with someone; however, I’ve figured out some tips that allow me to shop independently. Typically I go every week and over time, the vendors recognize me. They know about my visual impairment and make adjustments, such as telling me what I’m currently touching or showing me where the tap machine is for my debit card. Most people I’ve found are understanding and are open to listing the items they have for sale or allowing me to feel items for size and texture. I recommend bonding with some local produce vendors. Oftentimes they will give you a discount or free produce if they know you very well. With organic produce, the ones that don’t look appealing often get left behind at the end of the day and that is when vendors will give them away free of charge.
Surprisingly, it is possible to buy from small businesses through third party retailers. The one I’m familiar with is Etsy. Anyone is able to start their own online store. Etsy is well known for being a popular place to purchase handmade items. Most importantly, it is screen reader accessible. The web site even lists how many sales a store has, along with reviews and ratings.
My final tip will involve small shops. I used to have a lot of frustration towards small shops because many would not have online web sites to browse products. I would look at this as a barrier and let that stop me because I thought it wasn’t accessible. I now realize that this isn’t the case at all. Although I may not be able to support them from the comfort of my home, navigating them in person is much easier. Because it’s a small area, the employee greets the customers as they walk in. From here I’m able to ask for assistance. If it happens to be busier, the confined space makes it easy to orient myself to the counter and ask for help from there.
I know it can be extremely disheartening to see so many small companies close or be bought out. I do have hope that every individual can have an impact in their own way. I believe that even the smallest purchase can make a big difference.
by Nika Najafi