Library Accessibility After the COVID-19 Pandemic


As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, we cheer ourselves by thinking of future socializing in-person. We also think about returning to work or activities we love. These hopes help us through the challenges of physical distancing. Moreover, these challenges show us that we can be more flexible or more creative than we thought we could. For instance, organizations, from media outlets to stores, have adapted to new ways of providing information during the pandemic. Many of these adaptations are also practices that make information more accessible for viewers with disabilities. More information is being offered online, in accessible formats, or with communication supports. In the post-COVID-19 future, more people may recognize the value of adapting information to meet citizens’ diverse needs. Consequently, cities and towns may want to improve their library accessibility after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Library Accessibility After the COVID-19 Pandemic

When libraries re-open, workers will need to adjust to new protocols ensuring public safety. For example, when people return books, staff will not reshelve them right away. Instead, staff may need to wait several days before touching the books. Alternatively, libraries may work with publishers to offer more copies of digital media, such as ebooks or digital audio. Similarly, rules for library programming may also change. For instance, programming may be:

  • In-person, but open to fewer people because of physical distancing requirements
  • Online, through video-conferencing

In short, libraries will need to adapt in order to continue serving the public during the later stages of the pandemic. In the same way, libraries can adapt just as proactively to make their programs and services more accessible to patrons who have disabilities.

Materials and Resources

Under the Information and Communications Standards of the AODA, public libraries must offer accessible-format versions of resources, such as:

  • Literature
  • Music
  • Reference works
  • Dramatic or artistic works
  • Archival materials
  • Special collections
  • Rare books
  • Donated materials

When possible, libraries should have their own copies of resources in accessible formats, such as:

  • Braille
  • Large print
  • Audio
  • Accessible digital files, such as ebooks or digital audio
  • Described video

Alternatively, libraries can partner with the Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA) or the National Network for Equitable Library Service (NNELS), organizations that make works available in these formats for patrons with print disabilities.

When librarians plan to buy new books or subscribe to new publications, they should try to find copies in accessible formats. Moreover, when librarians are choosing online resources to subscribe to or partner with, they should create partnerships with websites that comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.

Training Staff

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
  • from CELA or NNELS

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

Accessible Equipment and Services

In addition, libraries can offer a variety of equipment that will allow all patrons to use computers on-site. 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, the same way they help non-disabled patrons using their computers.

Similarly, libraries can offer communication devices for patrons to use on-site, such as assistive listening devices or communication boards.

Accessible Programs

Moreover, libraries can make their premises and programs accessible to patrons of all abilities. Some accessible set-ups and services libraries could implement include:

  • Wide aisles between shelves and tables
  • Programs that include communication supports like Sign language interpretation or captioning
  • Quiet study or work spaces

Contact Information

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

In the coming weeks, library staff will likely develop new ways to serve the public in response to COVID-19. They will be using new rules and procedures to solve the problems the pandemic has posed for their staff and patrons. Therefore, library boards and staff can use the same strategies in the future to offer more library accessibility after the COVID-19 pandemic.




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Queens Borough Public Library Sued for Excluding Persons with Disabilities from Full and Equal Access to Hunters Point Library


Disability Rights Advocates calls out shocking disregard for community, seeks to force library to fix this unjust and discriminatory situation

NEW YORK (November 26, 2019) – Today, Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) filed a class action lawsuit against Queens Borough Public Library, The Board of Trustees of the Queens Borough Public Library, and the City of New York, challenging the inaccessibility of Queens’ newest library branch, Hunters Point Library. Read the complaint below.

Plaintiffs Tanya Jackson and Center for Independence of the Disabled – New York (CIDNY) are suing to require the library to fix this unjust and discriminatory situation.

Under longstanding disability rights laws, newly constructed buildings must be made fully accessible to people with disabilities. Yet Hunters Point Library, which is an entirely new $41.5 million building constructed after years of in-depth planning, shockingly excludes persons with mobility disabilities from full and equal access to its services through reliance on stairs and other inaccessible features.

The barriers at Hunters Point Library are numerous:

  • There are at least three levels completely inaccessible to persons with mobility disabilities.
  • The children’s section contains multi-level wooden lounging and small-group meeting space inaccessible to children and caregivers with mobility disabilities.
  • The upper level of the rooftop terrace-which provides with spectacular views of Manhattan’s East River-has no access for persons with mobility disabilities.
  • There are long waits for the heavily-utilized single elevator, which does not even stop at every level.
  • The stunning panoramic views are most visible from inaccessible staircases.
  • The designated stroller “parking” areas block the path of travel from the elevator to some of the Library’s main features.

“It is shocking to me that a brand-new public library would not be fully accessible to people with mobility disabilities like myself. Libraries should welcome everyone, not exclude whole populations of people,” said Tanya Jackson, a plaintiff who resides in Long Island City.

“Twenty-nine years after the ADA promised open doors and equal opportunities for people with disabilities, we find the doors of a brand new library shut to children and adults with disabilities. This should not be allowed to happen. The Queens Borough Public Library and the City of New York must obey the law and make this right,” said Susan M. Dooha, Executive Director of plaintiff Center for Independence of the Disabled – New York.

“The ADA is not a new requirement, and it is not hard to understand. It is baffling that this $41.5 million building is missing these fundamental elements. It’s as though the library didn’t care about these requirements, or worse didn’t even consider the needs of these members of the community. People with disabilities should be able to browse, relax, and enjoy the library just like everyone else,” said Andrea Kozak-Oxnard, a Staff Attorney at DRA.

“Hunters Point Library was meant to be a model, a state-of-the-art institution designed to serve the needs of the community. The Library’s total disregard for adults and children with disabilities must be addressed,” said Michelle Caiola, Managing Director of Litigation at DRA.

DRA’s goal is that the lawsuit will rectify the exclusion of people with disabilities by requiring Defendants to develop and implement a remedial plan to provide equal access to Hunters Point Library. The suit alleges violations of the federal and local civil rights laws designed to eliminate disability-based discrimination.

DRA provides free legal services and takes on complex class-action cases for people with disabilities whose civil rights have been violated. It is the leading nonprofit disability rights legal center in the country and has won nearly all its cases, knocking down barriers for people with all types of disabilities. Rather than delivering monetary rewards, these class-action suits are brought to force reforms to systems and practices that discriminate against people with disabilities.

About Disability Rights Advocates: With offices in New York and California, Disability Rights Advocates is the leading nonprofit disability rights legal center in the nation. Its mission is to advance equal rights and opportunity for people with all types of disabilities nationwide. DRA represents people with all types of disabilities in complex, system-changing, class action cases. DRA is proud to have upheld the promise of the ADA since our inception. Thanks to DRA’s precedent-setting work, people with disabilities across the country have dramatically improved access to education, health care, employment, transportation, disaster preparedness planning, voting, and housing. For more information, visit http://www.dralegal.org.

Contacts

Jennifer Barden
[email protected]
(646) 676-4486

Original at https://dralegal.org/press/hunters-point-library/




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New Look for 100+ Year Old Library in North End Comes with Accessible Features


The newly renovated St. John’s Library opened on Friday, with upgrades that include an accessible entrance and a literacy playground. CTV News Winnipeg
Published Friday, July 5, 2019

A library in Winnipeg’s North End reopened Friday following two years of upgrades that helped to enhance the building’s accessibility.

The St. John’s Library, which originally opened on June 2, 1915, now has an accessible entrance and washroom, as well as a lift.

“Congratulations to St. John’s Library on your re-opening; I am delighted to know that Government of Canada programs like the Enabling Accessibility Fund have helped you showcase your commitment to removing barriers to accessibility and inclusion for all Canadians who find joy, wonder and excitement in reading and lifelong learning,” said Canadian Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility Carla Qualtrough in a news release.

St. John’s Library Renovation
As part of the renovations, the St. John’s Library now has a 943 square foot addition with a reading area.

The $2.8-million renovation also went to a redesign of the main floor and lower level, a 24-hour book return, two tutorial rooms, two program rooms, renovated washrooms, as well as a 943 square foot addition with a reading area.

The St. John’s Library is a designated heritage building, so the original features were maintained and refurbished during the renovations, which also included new shelving, furniture, and a family literacy playground.

“It’s always exciting to see the results of renovations and we’re thrilled to see the upgraded St. John’s Library reopening to the benefit of this community,” said Mayor Brian Bowman.

The funds for the renovation came from all three levels of government and public support.

Original at https://winnipeg.ctvnews.ca/new-look-for-100-year-old-library-in-north-end-comes-with-accessible-features-1.4495522



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How to Provide Accessible Library Service


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.

Welcoming Patrons

Libraries must welcome all patrons who enter with assistive devices, service animals, or support persons.

Training Staff

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.



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Library Accessibility Features


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:

  • Literature
  • Music
  • 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.

Accessible Programs

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.

Contact Information

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.



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