Under the Customer Service Standards of the AODA, service providers must make their goods, services, and facilities accessible to customers with disabilities. Our last article outlined accessible features in libraries. In this article, we cover what staff can do to create an accessible library service experience for patrons. In particular, we look at how staff can find ways to make their premises welcoming to patrons who need accessible features that a library does not have yet.
How to Provide Accessible Library Service
When librarians plan to buy new books or subscribe to new publications, they should try to find alternate-format versions of the print or visual materials they are selecting. Moreover, when librarians are choosing online resources to subscribe to or partner with, they should look into whether these websites comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. They should try to develop relationships with online publications that share their commitments to service for all patrons.
Libraries must welcome all patrons who enter with assistive devices, service animals, or support persons.
Libraries must ensure that their staff are trained to interact with patrons who have disabilities. Staff should understand how to communicate with patrons, both in person and remotely. In addition, staff should know where accessible content is shelved as well as how patrons can access library materials in alternative ways, such as through the library website, from other branches, and from the Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA) or the National Network for Equitable Library Service (NNELS).
Staff should also know how their libraries’ accessible computer equipment works. This knowledge allows them to help first-time patrons learn the basics or troubleshoot if computers malfunction.
In addition, staff should know how to provide a welcoming experience for patrons if their branches are lacking certain structural features. For instance, staff should:
- Retrieve resources from inaccessible sections or floors upon request
- Know where the nearest accessible washrooms are
- Offer remote service for patrons who cannot enter the space
Staff should make the public aware that they have these or other accessible library services. When they do so, more people can be patrons of libraries that value them as clients.