LIS 7160: Criticism on Chapter 7 “Abilities with Disabilities” of The Reference Interview Today

Citation for the text: Knoer, Susan.  The Reference Interview Today.  Santa Barbara, Calif.: Libraries Unlimited, 2011.

I felt the need to explain some of the criticism I am leveling at this chapter.  First, I’d like to address the issue of “empathy training.” No person without a disability can accurately talk about the issues and troubles a person of that community faces.  My experiences will be nothing like what a person who is blind experiences.  To appropriate their experiences is problematic, because it leads to a very shallow understanding of the issues at hand and can lead people to underestimate actual challenges and issues people face on a daily basis.

While this kind of training may be well suited for children, to help them understand the need for empathy for those who are different; an adult who will be making policy decisions based on this training, has the potential to harm those they are trying to help.

As I’ve stated in other blog posts, as information professionals,

We need to educate ourselves on our library population, including the aged and disabled. We cannot expect them to be our sole educators, it is not their responsibility. A culture, be it an ethnic or social culture, should not be held responsible for the ignorance of outsiders. They should not suffer due to the ignorance of outsiders. I cannot presume to know what a person with disabilities faces on a daily basis that prevents them from accessing a library or information agency. However, I can speak with those who are disabled, and have.

From, “Reaching Out to Disability Culture.”

Secondly, I take great issue with the suggestion that we lie to our patrons, if they do not speak in a way that we can understand them. This can go for people who speak differently due to a disability, or someone with a heavy accent To blame the background noise, in what is generally a quiet library, is offensive.

A situation like this is more complicated to explain why it is a flawed suggestion. However, I feel that you would be doing the patron a great disservice to lie. Instead, ask them to write it down, or yes, repeat themselves.