#uklibchat summary – Accessibility and Libraries 2 September 2014
September’s chat was on accessibility and featured a wide range of ideas about what we do and what is needed. We had a feature article on whether libraries are open to all and how to make them accessible. In the summary below I have summarised similar answers, but the original, un-edited tweets can be found in the chat archive.
In summarising this chat it is clear that although we talked in passing about different disabilities and access issues within the discussion we never really defined access needs and disability.
Jamie Redgate (@Libraryjamie) did highlight during discussion the definition of ‘disability’ under the Equality Act.
However other access issues which were mentioned also included literacy, language (e.g. ESOL), poverty/living in a rural area and dyslexia.
When talking about disability it is important to use appropriate and respectful language, as with anyone, specially those who are often subject to discrimination. There is a really useful guide to talking about disability and people with disabilities from SCOPE. Due to some mistakes made during chat, just a note that one should not refer to people with disabilities as “sufferers”.
1. What makes for an accessible library service?
- free (UK as contrasting with Holland’s subscription model)
- attitudes : willingness and flexibility, welcoming and inclusivity
- trained – awareness and sensitivity to a range of disabilities and access needs
- good staffing levels
- assistive technologies and having accessibility options on existing technologies and online resources
- having online resources/e-resources and catalogue/digital access to collections, allowing online reservations
- using clear language and being aware of language barriers
- Making sure stock is easy to navigate
- catering for disabilities
- physically accessible
- considering and catering for the specific community of your library
2. What does your library already do that supports accessibility?
General accessibility / supports a range of disabilities and access issues
- Promoting services specially those that are accessible
- adapting loans to support users such as extended loans, postal loans
- staff training
- one to one inductions
- range of study areas at different noise levels
- stock at a range of reading levels and for a range of disabilities
- text help and mind-mapping software
- dedicated member of staff or accessibility champion (although some did query whether this may mean other staff take less responsibility for this)
- library disability services team co-ordinating support, and offering one to one help
- home library service (service where books are brought to the library by staff or volunteers to those who cannot leave the house due to age related infirmity, disabilities or long term illness
- Colour coding Dewey bays linked to colour coding on OPAC to supporting finding
- Writing equality impact assessments for services including assessing accessibility
- e-books & online services
- prison library service
- Adapting building where possible can be difficult
- Lifts installed where building, need to have lifts to all floors
- Installed platform lift at front door
- Avoiding shelving books too high or too low
Deafness/Hard of hearing
- induction/hearing loop
- reading room for hard of hearing
Dyslexia / adult literacy
- coloured overlays (thought to help dyslexics with reading)
- six book challenge (similar to summer reading challenge – scheme to encourage adult literacy students by offering small rewards for completing reading six books – project by Reading Agency with many public libraries nationally)
- mind mapping software (also used by non dyslexic patrons)
- planning special event for young people with learning disabilities – treasure hunt
Print and visual disabilities
- photocopying – the law does make some allowances for reproduction of texts for access. Some publishers will also provide accessible versions of texts but they may not be very rapid about it.
- Scanning material
- Specialist reading groups
- online reading lists
- mental health drop in sessions
- Books on Prescription (national scheme where health professionals can recommend reading library books chosen by health professionals for a range of lesser mental health conditions – project by Reading Agency with many public libraries nationally)
- occupational health therapists joint projects
3. What are the information needs of disabled library patrons?How can we meet those needs?
No specifics were suggested but rather that “Each person’s needs are individual” (paraphrase of @libraryjamie)
It was suggested that the carers as well as the person with disability or access needs may have their own information needs.
The main difference suggested was the need for information to be in an accessible format or generally accessible in some way that is equal to everyone who needs the information or resource.
Beyond that the issue of trained staff who were aware, flexible and empathetic was suggested.
4. Bearing in mind many library services are facing very tight budgets, what should libraries be doing to widen access?
- Staff awareness, regular training, empathy
- Talk to your users and non users
- Have staff champions
- “racism free zone” – have zero tolerance on inappropriate attitudes
- Make sure you buy accessible systems and resources and make use of free AT tools
- Promote your accessible resources – waste of money if you buy resources and people don’t know they’re available
- Collaborate (where no conflict)
- Closer relationship between disability support services and libraries (HE sector)
5. Recommend some good resources for how to make libraries more accessible.
6. What features would be essential for a brand new library building?
- Complex to balance the needs of all potential users and different needs as well as budgets.
- Range of areas with different uses, flexible spaces, cooling off areas
- Plenty of space
- Neutral colours
- Good acoustics, light and ventilation
- Enough work spaces
- Important that areas to help additional needs are not too separate and become ghettoised or isolating
- Some suggestions were made in relation to Autism earlier in the discussion. For Aspergers and Autism it is important to be aware of sensory overload, specially noise but also light and colour.
- Specially important to not be too noisy in entrance way.
- soft lighting
- access to spaces that are isolated from other users (solo space) suggested
- National Autistic Society mentioned for info on autism friendly buildings
7. Should libraries be making better use of free apps instead of expensive software to improve accessibility? What do people use ?
The discussion included some general comments on apps and software
- Important not to have apps for sake of it, must be of use and staff know how to use.
- Tech can be a barrier for many as well as a help. An example was given of a patron unable to use screens or a computer at all
- Sometimes it may be better to look at workarounds for the apps you have as not everyone wants to feel singled out by “special” equipment or apps. e.g. Ebook apps may allow expanding the size of font e.g.
- OverdriveLibs app
- eBokBib – Norwegian ebook app
- Tech can be very enabling – e.g. skype conversations, chatrooms, and it was mentioned that apps etc can be very helpful for example in a rural area
Recommended apps / software
- apps for Autism reviewed by DART (Development Autism Research Technology) at University of Edinburgh
- myStudybar JISC voices
- Jisc_Techdis portable apps runnable from USB
- Whiteboard app
- QR codes
Some Visual impairment programmes (not apps) were mentioned as being offered, although there was some uncertainty as to their value and helpfulness to customers : Supernova, JAWS/Zoomtext, screenreader
Recommendation professional advice/training/support : @ShawTrusta11y , @AbilityNet
8. Is anyone using BS8878 to document policy decisions for enhancing access to web resources?
@Natalyadell was only one who mentioned citing BS8878 as part of justifying online accessibility, but said you really needed e-systems, software experts to contextualise and implement the standard.
9. Accessibility applies to staff as well as users. Do you consider this when putting together job descriptions? E.g. people with physical disabilities and anyone with problems using the phone would struggle with many paraprofessional job descriptions.
This question was only covered briefly.
One respondent said they interview anyone saying they have a disability on their application, and make alterations based on staff need (@Hollingtonn).
Some organisations offer interview to anyone disclosing to discuss why don’t meet job specification.
However, this requires people to have got as far as applying and as mentioned by some participants, the Job Specification can be offputting.
One participant wasn’t sure what official practises were in place but knew that they have had visually impaired staff and work experience students (@GabyK_lib)
There was some discussion about what the legal obligation of organisations were in this regard.
I have found the following since the chat from Gov.uk:
Sometimes needs of staff with disabilities can be as simple as respite.
Disclosure was brought up as a complex issue. Disclosure gives you rights as an employee and responsibilities as an employer, however, it can be difficult to disclose due to fears of not being accepted or even offered employment. However if you then may need adjustments, it can be difficult to request if you have not disclosed earlier.