Did you know that the Americans with Disabilities Act, opens a new window (ADA) turned 30 this year? The ADA protects the civil rights of persons with disabilities by making sure that they “have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.” The ADA ensures that everyone with disabilities has equal access to “public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications.”
Library Services and Technology Act Grant
In 2018, San Mateo County Libraries, San Jose Public Library, opens a new window, and San Francisco Public Library, opens a new window collaborated to apply for and were awarded a Library Services and Technology Act, opens a new window (LSTA) grant to improve accessibility and inclusion for persons with disabilities.
To start the process, we sought to engage members of our community with disabilities as well as local non-profits and service providers through community conversations to find out how we can best support persons with disabilities through library services. We used this feedback to create staff training to create a supportive and inclusive environment for those with disabilities. Through the course of the year, we trained 90% of staff in disability awareness.
Discover Skill and Disability Awareness Backpacks
San Mateo County Libraries created Discover Skill Backpacks and Disability Awareness backpacks. While the Discover Skill backpacks were designed to support children with disabilities, the Disability Awareness backpacks were designed to promote dialogue around the acceptance and inclusion of children with disabilities. One example of a Discover Skill Backpacks was a “Making Friends” kit for ages 6-10. There was also a “Feelings” kit for ages 0-5. The items in the bag were curated by staff to support those with disabilities with feedback from Gatepath Family Resource Center, opens a new window who specializes in providing support for parents with children with disabilities. With these resources, we were able to design backpacks that not only allow children to discover new skills, but also help parents create dialogue and framework to discuss inclusion and acceptance. The final piece of the grant was putting together a collaborative Access and Inclusion Digital Toolkit, opens a new window to support other library systems in their endeavors to support persons with disabilities. While these backpacks are not available right now due to COVID-19, we hope to bring back non-traditional items like this to our curbside services when it is safe to do so.
Our Libraries Support Access and Inclusion for All: Next Steps
Our libraries have been hard at work creating inclusive programming, building a library collection that supports diversity, and providing outreach to local school districts and the community at large. We look forward to continuing this work and expanding our services to people with disabilities. Our library system has recently joined a cohort of institutions from around the world called Of, By, For All, opens a new window to continue this equity work. We will use this framework to create even more programs and services of, by and for people with disabilities.