The end of the semester has arrived and along with it the time for reflection. This semester has greatly broadened by perspective and understanding of many issues regarding universal access both inside and outside of the library and information science community.
More than anything else, this course has inspired me to question what I can bring to the library community and how I can improve universal access on a local level. Much of the information provided in this course centered on the ideas of national efforts, but it’s the local stories that will truly shape our profession. Patrons living in rural and urban areas all face unique universal access challenges, but we, as library and information science professionals, all have the capacity to be inquisitive, creative, and informative in our observations and efforts to truly make the library an accessible place for all. Sometimes it’s the most unique and out-of-the-box ideas that really bring change. Keeping an open mind is key.
Coming into this course, I expected to learn the specific requirements of the American Disabilities Association that libraries must follow. And, although I did learn a lot about ADA requirements, I learned much more about opening my eyes to the barriers that individuals with disabilities face everywhere, every day. Through my group project which examined services being provided at two Urban Public Libraries, I realized just how far the profession is from providing a high level of service to this community. The Detroit Public Library does not even provide automatic doors! Let alone many of the more overlooked aspects of the everyday life and challenges of an individuals with a disability! Before taking this course I falsely assumed that all public libraries were required by law to meet all ADA requirements. I know realize how far from the truth this is. Many libraries, even some major urban libraries, do not make even the most obvious of accessibility concessions. It truly is saddening.
Yet, one cannot simply be pessimistic and sad about this. As I learned in this course, library professionals must take an active role in facilitating change. Without the efforts of librarians across the nation, many libraries would not be able to serve entire populations. Taking the time to take and share the results of a thorough Universal Access SWOT is one of the first steps that librarians can take to facilitate change.
As I look back upon what this class really taught me, I can passionately declare that it taught me the importance of activism for universal access in our profession. Without open eyes and ears to the needs of all individuals in our communities, libraries risk dis-serving entire populations, which is completely unacceptable.