DJ4DJ was a component of SCRLC's 2022 American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grant award. Made possible through the digital equity portion of ARPA funding, this project was limited to public libraries in our region: Finger Lakes Library System, Four County Library System, and Southern Tier Library System members. Libraries and cultural organizations of all types can benefit from the accessibility audit findings and professional development as shared below.
This project was supported with federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds allocated to the New York State Library by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).
Is your self-check-out station accessible? Huntington Library uses Envisionware's solution to keep the self-check-out low and easy to maneuver around.
Are patrons of all sizes and shapes able to find seating? A list of vendors for large-rated chairs is available here.
Is your entrance accessible? If you have double doors close together with a small vestibule, having the doors open simultaneously from a single external button makes entrance easier for a disabled patron.
Does your signage save patrons headaches? Especially if your building is difficult for a disabled patron to navigate, make sure you have ample signage to indicate where things are. For example, maybe the elevator could have button labels or signs to indicate what patrons could find on each floor.
Audits were performed by Lynn Gitlow, Assistive Technology Consultant, Jeff Boles, Finger Lakes Independence Center Advocacy Specialist and Kathleen Hooks, Community Accessibility Consultant. We thank them for their excellent work!
They assessed the needs and made purchase recommendations for appropriate assistive devices to help the disabled community better access the internet using the library.
They visited five representative libraries: Dutton S. Peterson Memorial Library (Odessa, Schuyler County), Groton Public Library (Groton, Tompkins County), Huntington Memorial Library (Oneonta, Otsego County), Tompkins County Public Library (Ithaca, Tompkins County) and Watkins Glen Public Library (Watkins Glen, Schuyler County).
General Findings: While each library is a unique entity, there are some overarching recommendations that we have for all the libraries as well as unique suggestions for each individual library. In order for a library to be digitally accessible, it must also be physically navigable as well as attuned to the specific needs of its patrons.
First Recommendation: That all the libraries add information regarding their library's accessibility to their websites; each library we visited had services and tools that patrons might not be aware of. These features should be clearly listed on the website under an accessibility or disability services section that lists information about accessible parking and entrances to the library, in addition to the assistive devices available for patron use including digital resources (and how to utilize them), website accessibility and additional services available.
Two examples of accessibility information on library websites: https://www.nypl.org/accessibility & https://www.berkeleypubliclibrary.org/library/disability-services
Second Recommendation: That each library provides clear signage that highlights the accessible features and services that the library can provide, as well as signage that encourages patrons to ask for help and information that they might need. For example, one of the libraries we visited mentioned having talking books and braille options, but their patrons are not aware of these options. Signs that mention these options in addition to including such information on the website will help disabled patrons know their options. Additionally, disability awareness training for staff may be useful. The Finger Lakes Independence Center or Catskill Center for Independence can provide this training and we recommend recording these trainings to have them available for future staff training and onboarding.
Third Recommendation: That staff be educated about the accessibility features offered in Windows OS and be able to activate these features on an as-needed basis in order to increase the accessibility of a library's digital features. Tompkins County Public Library is willing to share resources with the other libraries on how to implement this goal.
The consultants recommended at least one computer station have an ergonomic keyboard and mouse set-up for patrons who may need this to access the computer. While some of the libraries may not feel these tools are necessary because they have existing alternatives available, it is important that patrons know of these options.
Here is are ergonomic mouse and keyboard options:
Consider an electronic magnifier and sound amplifier that could be borrowed for use at the library by patrons with visual or hearing impairments.
Here are some personal digital magnifier options:
Here are some personal sound amplifiers:
There is a local program available through Lifelong called Wonderful Wheelchairs (http://wonderfulwheelchairs.org/). This is a volunteer organization that cleans, repairs, and sells used wheelchairs, walkers, and power mobility devices (PMDs) at very reasonable prices to those who need them. If you would like to make wheelchairs or walkers available to your patrons, this is a great resource.
Your library website should follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) international standard. There are many tools available, for free and for a cost, that will help you assess your own site. In brief, be sure that your website: