There are libraries in many countries and cities worldwide and yet the access for the disabled people is not a reality. In order to deliver equal opportunities to all library visitors, the building architecture and services and programmes should be revised.
The Permanent Library Committee of IFLA to attend disadvantaged people (LSDP) has developed a checklist to be used as a useful tool for every kind of library (public, academic, school, special) with the following purposes:
1) Evaluate the existing accessibility levels to buildings and services, materials and programmes.
2) Improve accessibility where needed.
Requirements for an accessible library
According to the “Guidelines for service development in public libraries (2001)” of IFLA/UNESCO, the library accessibility should consider both the architectural aspect and services and cultural programmes. Moreover, it should meet the following requirements:
- Easy to access buildings.
- Having accessible reading rooms.
- Having proper technology and adaptation.
- Providing certain services to ease returns, queries, etc., for those who are not able to visit the library with frequency.
For a library to be accessible, certain economic resources are needed. However, many improvements can be implemented with small amounts of money or even at no additional cost.
For example, it is recommended to include representatives of disability groups and support organizations within the assessment process. Their contributions together with the checklist items will provide a lot of useful information related to immediate improvement measures and future planning.
The main aspect is to focus in delivering equal access for everybody, regardless of their disability both by assessing buildings and existing services and by planning news ones.
Every citizen should be able to use public libraries. The surroundings of the building, the entrance, the toilets, the stairs, the lifts and special rooms should be accessible for people with different types of disability. Someone on a wheelchair should be able to reach every department. Someone with a visual impairment should be able to walk with a stick or a guide dog to find his/her way without obstacles. A deaf person should be able to communicate with the library staff. Someone with an intellectual disability should be able to easily find books and other material, etc.