For some of us, those first scary days of the Covid-19 pandemic may now feel like it was a million years ago, but for others still dealing with the trauma and aftermath of grief and loss, or who are still struggling with "long Covid," it may feel like a never-ending nightmare. The predominant emotion I can most easily recall from that time is insecurity. Without prior experience of a worldwide pandemic, that creeping feeling of dread that life as we knew it could soon transform into something unrecognizable was enough to spur me to action, as for me, doing something, anything, to feel empowered gets me through a great deal of life's uncertainties. Here is the story of one quick decision that became a project I'm managing even now, that has made a difference I'm proud to share.
In early spring of 2020, as the US Congress was debating the merits of a so-called "rescue plan," a bailout scheme for businesses and individuals alike, I grew skeptical, as well as concerned, over what surely seemed like the demise of our economy. While the passage of the two trillion dollar government rescue package may have been a welcome port in the storm for some workers, my primary concern was for my own community, people with disabilities. The last time the government provided bailout money was around the 2008 housing crash, and at that time, bailouts did not include people with disabilities, or those on any sort of government assistance, including recipients of SSI, assistance for needy families, Social Security or SSDI recipients. I had no idea whether or not any of these groups would see financial relief from the pandemic crisis, via the rescue bill that was quickly taking shape, and this had me feeling profoundly uneasy.
On the flip side, there were millions of potential customers who were stuck at home, with little or no ability to buy gifts for holidays, special occasions, or just to gift a friend a lift. At first, we were encouraged to stay home for "15 days to slow the spread," but it soon became apparent that our lives would be governed by mandatory business shutdowns and the need to quarantine.
Everyday life became problematic for vulnerable people who needed help, as during the long periods of lock down, access to a home care worker, personal assistant, or even a helpful neighbor was limited. Without access to transportation, even regular grocery shopping was out of reach. It wasn't hard for me to imagine seniors and people with disabilities, without their children or caregiver to run errands for them, to feel isolated and afraid. What about people who were not tech savvy, someone at home alone and overwhelmed, for whom the idea of shopping online was cognitively burdensome?
As the negotiations continued, there would be forgivable loans to small business owners who retained their employees, tax breaks for families with children, unemployment benefits for the foreseeable future, and lots of checks that would be headed out to mailboxes everywhere. It seemed to me though, that there was a possibility that groups of individuals would fall through the cracks. Contract workers, part-time employees, and the businesses that did not meet the requirements to receive those forgivable loans, such as home-based businesses and sole proprietorships. What about artists? People who worked only for tips? What about business owners who were unwilling to apply for small business loans? I didn't have the answers, but I felt as though I had to, at the very least, do something to help my own community. Consequently, I decided to take matters into my own hands and find a way to make the lives of both groups a little easier. If people can’t go to the mall to shop, I would bring the mall to them!
So, I created an event I called "Let's Go Shopping."
Let’s Go Shopping is an all-day, online, accessible, virtual shopping event that is intended to benefit two groups: Small business owners and the customers who need them. Each business owner can choose a time slot, and a presentation length of 30 or 60 minutes. During that time, they present their best products to an audience attending via Zoom. Think of it as an audio-only variation of a home Shopping Network, or QVC.
The idea was to make shopping as easy, as accessible, and as frictionless as possible for all, so vendors are asked to make a few accommodations, whether that means taking orders by phone, email, or smoke signals, their job was to make it simple for people of all abilities to shop. All vendors and attendees log in using the same credentials, and they listen to scheduled programming by a variety of business owners offering a selection of merchandise ranging from food to fashion, tech gadgets to pet toys, art to artisan crafted gifts. The entire event is recorded, and replayed over the long Thanksgiving weekend.
Let's Go Shopping has become something of a passion project for me, as my desire to support small businesses and entrepreneurs with disabilities continues. After six previous LGS programs, Over 35 individually owned and operated small businesses have had the opportunity to showcase their products to new audiences. As a result, proprietors have won new customers, enterprises have been expanded, and a delighted consumer base has discovered a world of quality products that do not arrive in boxes originating from a multinational conglomerate named after a famous river.
You are invited to join us for Let's Go Shopping 7, set for Friday, November 4th and Saturday, November 5th. Starting at 8AM Pacific Time, you can shop 'til you drop from the comfort of your pj's, and pick up the great holiday gifts your recipients will love. For all the details, go to the Let's Go Shopping main information page and subscribe to the announcement list. This group list is the repository of all things Let's Go Shopping, including the all-important Zoom virtual mall login. You can also send a blank email to: firstname.lastname@example.org and you will be added to the list.
Feel free to share these links with your friends, and encourage them to join us for a fun two days.
The idea of hosting an online shopping event may seem trivial to some, but for those who felt cut off, or for whom online shopping was a bridge too far during difficult circumstances, the LGS event has been a lifesaver. Plus, it's fun! All the presenters carefully and thoroughly describe their products for an audience who cannot see them, and shoppers can get their questions answered, just as if they were in a real-world store. It's been gratifying for me to host Let's Go Shopping these past few years, and the feedback from the attendees has been entirely positive. I hope you can join us November 4th and 5th to support a small business, and shop 'til you drop!
About the author:
Laura Legendary is a speaker, author, educator and entrepreneur specializing in accessibility, advocacy, and assistive technology. Laura is the owner of Elegant Insights Braille Creations, an online boutique which offers a distinctive, handcrafted collection of jewelry and accessories embossed in braille where you can shop the Elegant Insights collection. As cofounder of The Fashionability Channel podcast, Laura offers relevant beauty, fashion, and lifestyle information and education for people with disabilities. You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, or go to its web site . Laura maintains two blogs, the [Accessible Insights Blog][4 which provides information on products and services for individuals with low or no vision, and the Sparkle On Blog,, where she provides jewelry education, design, trend, and style information, so that anyone can shop for jewelry with confidence.
As managing editor for World Blind Herald, Laura contributes articles in the fashion, culture and lifestyle categories, and reviews articles for publication. You can [submit an article to World Blind herald. Laura majored in music at California State University, Northridge. Born and raised in Southern California, Laura now lives near Las Vegas, Nevada.
KaeAnn Rausch says
Awesome job on the article,, Laura! You are a woman of so much talent and passion for what you do! I am so glad to know you!