Library Accessibility in the 21st Century (Physical Barriers to…
Library Accessibility in the 21st Century
Physical Barriers to Accessibility
Early accessibility attempts often overlooked aspects of physical accessibility that could present hazards to disabled people (Riley & Wales, 2002).
Most libraries have become compliant with ADA standards in terms of physical accessibility (Willis, 2012).
Most libraries still experience frequent inaccessibility due to the use of step-stools and shelving carts in narrow aisles, as well as furniture being moved by patrons (Willis, 2012).
People with a variety of disabilities, including visual and mental, have better access to collections if given access to accommodations, including adjustable keyboard tables and oversized keyboards (Mates, 2012).
Only 5% of published information is available in an alternate format that is accessible (Epp, 2006).
Publishers in many places do not see value in producing alternate formats such as audiobooks and Braille publications, as it is not monetarily beneficial (Epp, 2006; Koulikourdi, 2008).
It is more cost-efficient for libraries to collaborate with others to pool limited-use resources, such as Braille works (Epp, 2006).
Academic libraries in Nigeria had large lapses in terms of physical accessibility and often had facilities that people with mobility handicaps were unable to use (Ekwelem, 2013).
Greek libraries lagged behind in terms of accessibility features, as they often did not have the funding to update facilities or train staff (Koulikourdi, 2008).
A special library in Jamaica faced setbacks related to legislation regarding the care of disabled youth, but was nonetheless able to design a library that took into consideration the total needs of people with a variety of disabilities (Marshall, 2008).
Libraries in Singapore were of interest to wheelchair-bound youth, but often had barriers to accessibility not anticipated by well-meaning staff, including unmarked accommodations and social stigma (Leong & Higgins, 2010).
The majority of research databases are inaccessible for people who require screen readers or alternate formats (Tatomir & Durrance, 2010; Tatomir & Tatomir, 2012).
Library websites often are inaccessible as well, lacking necessary features such as skip-navigation links but have improved greatly (Blansett, 2008).
To promote database accessibility, it is recommended that libraries seek out subscriptions to databases that are more accessible (Tatomir & Tatomir, 2012).
'Design-for-one' systems are adaptable and flexible enough to allow for people with a variety of needs to use them (Harper, 2007).
Disabled people in general are underemployed and have difficulty finding jobs that match their skills, and as a result they are frequently discouraged from finding work (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010).
LIS schools are often inaccessible to people with disabilities, particularly given how inaccessible databases are in addition to school websites (Bonnici, Maatta, Brodsky, & Steele, 2015).
Disabled people are often perceived as being unable to complete tasks necessary for library work, but in cases where they become library staff they are able to provide unique boons (Johnstone, 2005).
PRIMARY RESEARCH QUESTION: What are the needs of disabled people within the library, and are modern libraries meeting those needs?
A disability is “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual… a record of such an impairment; or… being regarded as having such an impairment” (Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990)
At least 18% of United States citizens are diagnosed with a disability (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010).
Most countries in the world have taken some action with regard to the rights of disabled people, but many are not comprehensive, effective, or enforced (“A Survey of International,” n.d.).
A library that is accessible to disabled people will also have more to offer able-bodied and neurotypical people as well (Patte, 2002).
Disabled Peoples' Perceptions of Libraries
Library staff often were unable to provide proper assistance to disabled patrons (Willis, 2012).
Library patrons in multiple countries perceived their academic libraries to be inaccessible to them and to lack the resources they need (Ekwelem, 2013; Koulikourdi, 2008; Mates, 2012).