By Elaine Chapman
My pitch at Library Camp this year was an interactive pitch that was designed to question what up and coming professionals in the library world know about interacting with users with disabilities.
I specifically wanted to question how we can learn, as a profession, to be better able to adapt our services towards users who are currently under-served.
My belief is that the way forward for libraries is to use outreach to market ourselves. The best way of bringing new people in to our world us to get out there and show them what we can do for them. The key to this is the ability to be adaptable, so that we can best meet the needs of individual users.
Many people forget that the majority of people with disabilities are adults, not children, but most of the non-residential services for disabled people are aimed at children and their families.
Disabled adults are often forgotten about, but I believe libraries can help fix this through adapting our services for them and making use of outreach to market ourselves as mentioned above.
With that in mind, I came up with the questions listed below.
These are the main questions I want to ask
-Are libraries doing all that we can for users with disabilities?
-Do you think budgetary issues impact on library services to peripheral groups? Are there ways around this?
-Do you know how to approach or help a disabled user? Would your library consider staff training on this?
-Do you consider your library fully accessible for those with disabilities? Consider visual and sensory disabilities as well as physical.
-Do you think that current and future librarians should be taught adaptive teaching?
I am not going to give you the answers to the questions listed above as I had one more purpose in giving this talk, and that was purely to get you thinking on these issues, because the more they are thought about, the quicker they are solved.
That said, I will give one example of how current programmes can be adapted to better help all users, but especially those with disabilities. That example lies with the reading programmes for children that many libraries operate. Introducing the use of a therapy animal in these programmes benefits literacy levels, but for children with autism, it can also have a huge impact on relieving social anxieties. Plus, who doesn’t want a library cat? Or dog, if we must!
Finally, I would like to say a massive thank you to Marta Bustillo, Therese Kelly, and the CDG. I could not have done it without you! They took a quiet autistic girl, and enabled her to spread her wings. Now we just need to do that for others.
Written by Elaine Chapman