Under the Customer Service Standards of the AODA, service providers must make their goods, services, and facilities accessible to customers with disabilities. This article will outline some of the features that can make libraries accessible. Library accessibility features allow people of all abilities to enjoy reading and create community together.
Library Accessibility Features
Materials and Resources
Since libraries help people access information, there are several guidelines in the AODA’s Information and Communications Standards that they need to follow. These guidelines ensure that all people can benefit from the information libraries contain. Public libraries must, whenever possible, offer accessible-format versions of all new and old library materials, such as:
- Reference works
- Dramatic or artistic works
- Archival materials
- Special collections
- Rare books
- Donated materials
Libraries can have their own copies of materials in formats such as Braille, large print, audio, accessible e-text, or described video. Alternatively, libraries may partner with organizations such as the Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA) or the National Network for Equitable Library Service (NNELS), which make works available in these formats for patrons with print disabilities. Moreover, the online resources that libraries subscribe to or partner with should comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. Libraries should publicize their partnerships with CELA, NNELS, and other accessible organizations. They should also advertise their own accessible-format titles, so that more people can learn that their local libraries offer resources they can use.
Accessible Equipment and Services
In addition, libraries should offer a variety of equipment that will allow all patrons to use computers on-site. Similarly, libraries can offer communication devices for patrons to use on-site, such as assistive listening devices or communication boards.
Moreover, libraries should do their best to make their premises and programs accessible to everyone. Wide aisles between shelves and tables create spaces that are welcoming to patrons using mobility devices. This set-up is also accessible for families with small children. Programs that include communication supports like Sign language interpretation or captioning will be welcoming to patrons who are deaf, deafened, or hard of hearing. Captioning may also be helpful for patrons learning English. Quiet study spaces benefit patrons who need to avoid distractions, use speech recognition software, or hear someone read inaccessible content.
Finally, libraries should provide multiple contact methods for patrons to get in touch with them, including:
- Phone and teletypewriter (TTY) numbers
- email addresses
- Accessible online catalogues for ordering resources, and contact forms on websites
Our next article will cover how staff can make their premises welcome to patrons with disabilities, including what to do if locations do not yet have library accessibility features.