Interesting discussion had today at a library conference I attended. The theme was teen and young adult services for public libraries. One of the excellent papers was presented by Denise Barker of the Disability Services Commission in Western Australia, about libraries working with young people with disabilities. I got some fabulous snaps while listening to Denise’s paper.
Firstly, when you make your library (and for that matter any other public space) accessible and useable for people with disabilities, it benefits everybody in the community. Ramps are also good for people with walkers or prams, or small children who are yet unable to negotiate stairs. Taps and door handles etc with levers instead of knobs, or automatic sensors are easier on people with arthritis or Parkinson’s, or people who have temporary injuries or repetitive strain injuries. They’re also more hygienic in bathrooms because there is less contact with the fittings.
Creating an inviting space for people with disabilities encourages socialising with a wider group of people, not just for the folks with disabilities, but also for the able-bodied, which promotes compassion, understanding and empathy, and frankly enriches everybody’s experiences.
You don’t always know if someone has a disability, and they may not tell you, even if they are having difficulties using your library. Hooray! It’s so good to hear someone acknowledging “invisible” disabilities. You cannot tell just by looking at someone what their body is able to do, or not able to do, or requires assistance to do.
People with intellectual disabilities need to be welcome in our libraries too. They need to feel comfortable and included.
Young people with disabilities don’t want to be special cases, they want to be included. They want access to the same things as everyone else, not “special” things. Sometimes they just need tools to be able to do so. Treat those items as tools for those people, not “special”.
And not to forget mental health issues either. As for everyone else, libraries need to be safe and welcoming for sufferers of mental health issues.
Mostly I guess the core message was about a) being inclusive and b) the benefits to all of the community.
All in all it was great to hear some thoughtful talk about the needs of young people (12 – 24) with disabilities in libraries. I know so often it gets overlooked.