This page includes resources of interest to public librarians who want to make their institutions more accessible to patrons with disabilities. With one in four American adults having some type of disability, public libraries cannot truly serve the whole public unless they prioritize equitable access for patrons with disabilities. Below you will find recommendations for readings that will introduce you to accessibility policies, training resources, funding opportunities, and the relationship between disability, race, and policing in public libraries, as well as case studies and inspiration for changes to make at your own library.
It may seem overwhelming to begin making your library more accessible—especially if your library has a small budget or if you as an individual don't hold much decision-making power. But accessibility is too important for you to wait for the perfect time to begin. Even small changes can have a big impact. Below are a few ideas to get started—inspired by the IFLA checklist for accessibility in libraries—as well as further resources with even more ideas.
Public libraries need to think critically about the ways police presence can put patrons with disabilities at increased risk, particularly Black and Brown patrons with disabilities. These resources introduce several critiques of the relationship between public libraries and the police, as well as an introduction to the intersection of disability and race in encounters with police. A guide to alternatives to calling the police, organized by city and situation, is also provided. We encourage you to get familiar with alternatives to policing in your area.
Interested in learning more? These suggested resources cover everything from a theoretical lens on the obligations of modern public libraries to the practical side of writing — and maintaining — a plan for making your library more accessible and inclusive.
Public libraries across the United States and beyond have introduced innovative programs and solutions to make their offerings more accessible and inclusive. Here are just a few examples of inclusive programming at public libraries to inspire programs at your own library.
Money is tight, and finding the budget to make accessibility-related improvements to your space, attend trainings, or develop new programming can be tough. Fortunately, there are grants and funding options specifically for programs and research aimed at increasing inclusivity, as well as more general grants that you can apply for. In addition to the resources listed below, consider reaching out to local groups that might be interested in sponsoring a project: local businesses and local service clubs like Kiwanis Club or Rotary Club may be able to donate supplies or funds.
No matter how physically or digitally accessible your library is, it won't be a welcoming space for all patrons if librarians and other staff aren't knowledgeable about disability and inclusivity. The following trainings and resources are aimed at helping librarians increase their awareness and knowledge of disability and accessibility in the library and beyond. Alongside other diversity trainings, these professional development programs can help librarians become aware of their own unconscious biases and overcome barriers to both providing inclusive service to patrons and creating an inclusive workplace environment for all staff.
Abrams, A. (2020, June 25). Black, Disabled, and at Risk: The Overlooked Problem of Police Violence Against American with Disabilities. Time. https://time.com/5857438/police-violence-black-disabled/
Association of Specialized, Government, and Cooperative Library Agencies. Management: What You Need to Know. ASGCLA. http://www.ala.org/asgcla/resources/tipsheets/management
Balzer, C. (2020, July 8). Rethinking Police Presence. American Libraries. https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2020/07/08/rethinking-police-presence/
Carter, N. (2020, June 26). What Hearing Police Sirens Means to Me as a Black Disabled Man. Greatist. https://greatist.com/live/what-hearing-police-sirens-means-to-me-as-a-black-disabled-man
Grassi, R. (2017, January 17). Libraries for All: Expanding Services to People with Disabilities. Illinois Library Association. https://www.ila.org/publications/ila-reporter/article/55/libraries-for-all-expanding-services-to-people-with-disabilities
Irvall, B., & Skat Nielsen, G. (2005). Access to libraries for persons with disabilities - CHECKLIST. IFLA Professional Reports. https://www.ifla.org/files/assets/hq/publications/professional-report/89.pdf
Library Freedom Project. (2020, June 9). It’s not enough to say Black Lives Matter — libraries must divest from the police. Medium. https://libraryfreedom.medium.com/its-not-enough-to-say-black-lives-matter-libraries-must-divest-from-the-police-2ab4adea58f1
Love, K. (2018, May 14). Pittsburgh Teens Record Thousands of Audiobooks For the Blind and Visually Impaired. WESA. https://www.wesa.fm/education/2018-05-14/pittsburgh-teens-record-thousands-of-audiobooks-for-the-blind-and-visually-impaired
McGowan, S., Martinez, H., & Marcilla, M. (2018, September 28). AnyAbility: creating a library service model for adults with disabilities. Reference Services Review. https://www-emerald-com.ezproxy.pratt.edu/insight/content/doi/10.1108/RSR-03-2018-0034/full/html
Robinson, B. (2019, December 11). No Holds Barred: Policing and Security in the Public Library. In the Library With the Lead Pipe. http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2019/no-holds-barred/
Thompson, V. (2021, February 10). Understanding the Policing of Black, Disabled Bodies. Center for American Progress. https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/disability/news/2021/02/10/495668/understanding-policing-black-disabled-bodies/
Tulsa City-County Library. (2013). Transforming Library Storytimes for Children with Sensory Integration Challenges. Urban Libraries Council. https://www.urbanlibraries.org/innovations/transforming-library-storytimes-for-children-with-sensory-integration-challenges
WebJunction. (2019, July 18). Prioritizing Accessibility and Disability Inclusion at Your Library. WebJunction: OCLC.org. https://www.webjunction.org/news/webjunction/prioritizing-accessibility.html