As we close on the semester, I’ve focused a lot on education, community, and social justice within my studies of universal access and library services to people who are disabled and older adults. I’ve realized that there are many different things that librarians can do to help these populations, but the biggest one is to educate ourselves.
We must educate without belittling or lessening the experiences that others face in their day to day life. It is important to understand and support, without ever assuming that we truly understand what populations different to us goes through. We must actively work to change the cultural idea of what “normal” is to include a wider range of people than it currently does, in all levels of society.
This means being aware of what micro-aggression is, and how to avoid behaving in similar ways. It means having some idea that books written about people who are disabled may not be accurate representations, and therefore perpetuate painful stereotypes. Educating ourselves also involves and understanding of the resources people have in our communities, and how the library can reach out and harness these resources, to provide a full and engaging experience. While also keeping aware of the fact that sometimes, the services we provide are not accessible. However, our education will help us make these services more open.
When I started this class I was asked to write out a handful of assumptions, an assignment I balked at, because I know assumptions are often unsafe to make. I came up with the following:
1) Disabilities manifest differently for every person. Two people may have the same disability, but it will manifest with its own unique challenges and issues.
2) Aging presents its own set of issues and challenges that cannot always be addressed in a blanket fashion.
3) Being old, or being a person with a disability does not have to affect your quality of life.
4) There is just as much diversity in aging and disabilities as there is in other identities.
All of my assumptions have remained the same throughout the course of this class. If anything, the readings, course material, and other assignments of this class has only served to propel these assumptions into firm truths. I have been made aware of a wider range of issues, challenges through this class than I was before. I am also well on my way to a better understanding of how to counter these issues, and to create a library environment that is welcoming to a wide range of people of varied abilities