Universal Access

Universal access is the concept that physical buildings, technology, information, and many other things should be open and accessible to those who are physically disabled or have other issues from preventing access in a traditional manner.   It is an idea that needs to take root in society, as even with the technologies and advances we have made, there is still a large barrier when it comes to people who fall outside of a “normal” preconceived notion of ability and ability levels.

Universal access is the concept that buildings should be barrier free, beyond just ADA compliant, but properly accessible to people of all types.  It is the idea the computers should be easily adaptable for people who have low or no vision, and limited mobility.  It also pertains to things like websites, presentations, and documents; that there is an uncomplicated way for people who are disabled to access the information provided on these materials.   The ADA mandates that buildings be accessible, yet there are some situations were buildings can be grandfathered in to be non-compliant.  In other situations, even if the buildings meet ADA codes, does not mean they are practically accessible.

However, in the situations such as educational materials, websites, and virtually everything else, are often not accessible.   This provides the biggest issue for libraries and information agencies.   There are many ways to make buildings more accessible, and things such as furniture and software on computers.  Yet, making buildings more open, including furniture and other settings, are expensive and often hard to retrofit.  Technology is costly to purchase, and hard to retrofit.  On top of that, these items then have to be marketed, which takes staff time and additional funding.

Sadly, this all falls to the clients, leaving them as underserved within the library.  Buildings, even accessible ones, provide different hassles of navigation.  Computer labs will not have the software needed to make computers fully accessible.  If a library does have these services, the marketing might not reach the people who need it most.

As librarian professionals we need to be aware of little changes we can make, and educate ourselves.  This will allow us to look at our workplaces, down to the physical buildings, to the materials that we but out, more open and accessible to a wide range of people.

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