(This is a companion piece to this post on the Blind Coin Collector blog.)
You meet the most interesting people on the internet. That’s a cliche, but it’s also true. Shortly after I began blogging for the Stamp and Coin Place, I began to connect with other collectors and coin bloggers. Everyone had an interesting point of view, but I was especially intrigued by Tom Babinszki, who blogs at BlindCoinCollector.com. You can read his story there (and follow the blog, it’s terrific.)
Tom and I had traded comments on social media and regularly read each other’s blogs. When he proposed a joint project, I jumped at the chance to work together. The idea was simple: I would help him with an online purchase from The Stamp and Coin Place, and we would both write about the experience.
I asked for a general idea of the coins he was looking for and got to work browsing our inventory for items that might be of interest. Almost immediately, I found myself stymied. I’m accustomed to describing the appearance of items; now I had to describe items in a way that would be useful for a customer who wanted to know how the coins felt. Instead of describing what I saw or copying the coin’s description from our store site, I had to concentrate on other concerns. How deep was the design? How clear was it? Were any blemishes strong enough to become tactile or were they primarily visual? Would the fine detail on a coin be distinguishable by touch, or would all the tiny lines blend together?
It was a whole new way of thinking. I looked for coins with deep or clear designs, or any other interesting physical detail (like a Kenyan coin with 9 sides) and described them as best as I could. I took some cues from the coin description on the Let the Blind See project, which I had found through Tom’s blog.
Tom let me know which items he wanted, and the order went off to accounting and shipping. I was very nervous about whether or not Tom would like the coins he picked. Were my descriptions helpful and accurate? Had I given enough detail? Would the actual coins live up to expectations? I was relieved to find out that Tom was happy with his new coins. The experiment was a success!
Accessibility is a major concern for any business wanting to provide a good customer service experience. Disability activist Heather Ratcliff writes, “One of the number one things that can be done to improve customer service for the disabled is to recognize that we’re paying customers, too. Disabled humans make up 20% of the population and our money is as good as any non-disabled human. When we ask for special accommodations, it’s not because we want special treatment. It’s because we want to have the same experience that non-disabled humans do, which sometimes requires different types of service. Not only that, but an excellent customer service experience that caters to our needs is going to be something we pass on and share with our disabled community.”
Coin collecting is one of the oldest and most popular hobbies in the world; it has the potential to be one of the most diverse, if we are willing to put in the effort to make sure that everyone is included. New technology is helping with this, through the internet, phone apps, and more. When Tom and I were discussing this project, he said something that struck me: “It is technology that makes me able to be a coin collector, and not a coin hoarder.” The doors are opening for more and more people to be active coin collectors; it’s the future of numismatics. With understanding, a little work, and some help from newer technology, we can ensure that the hobby we love is open to everyone.