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I work in a public library and want to be sure that our resources are accessible to all our patrons, including those with disabilities. What resources should we make available and where can we find additional information about making libraries accessible to individuals with learning disabilities?

Expert answer

Many public libraries have grappled with the same issues, so looking at how other librarians have worked to make their libraries accessible is a good start. Many libraries provide their patrons with online resource lists (opens in a new window) (on accessible websites (opens in a new window)), in addition to offering a wide variety of accessibility (opens in a new window) options (opens in a new window) within the library building. It may be helpful to get in touch with other librarians, either online or in person to ask how they met their patrons’ accessibility needs. The American Library Association has a number of excellent (opens in a new window) resources (opens in a new window) available to assist (opens in a new window) librarians in thinking about and respecting the needs of their patrons with disabilities. The ALA also has several options for connecting with other librarians (opens in a new window), from online forums to an island in Second Life.

Some accessibility options for your patrons may include providing helpful links on your library website, pointing users to both local and national disability groups. Within the library, it is important to make sure that media is accessible — books on tape, audio books, captioned videos, descriptive videos, magnifiers and large print books can all help ensure that a variety of media is accessible to many of your patrons. Many librarians also provide patrons with assistive software and hardware where needed. This may include reading and writing software, software capable of reading text aloud (text-to-speech), software that can enlarge text on the screen or Braille embossers for blind patrons. Check out the Montgomery County Public Library (opens in a new window) website for a good example of the types of tools you might offer. For further ideas, check out the ALA’s disability-specific Tip Sheets on Learning Disabilities (opens in a new window), Children with Disabilities (opens in a new window), Autism & Spectrum Disorders (opens in a new window), and many others (opens in a new window).

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