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Disability Accommodations and Services


at the Ashland Public Library

Melody Yoder
June 2017
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Introduction

Patrons with disabilities are part of our communities. They may live next door to us. They attend

school. They frequent businesses. They work in our community. They use the library. We may

find ourselves serving patrons with disabilities in our libraries who do not appear to have a

disability while other disabled patrons have more noticeable disabilities.

This report will discuss what is being done at the Ashland Public Library to accommodate

individuals with a range of disabilities. It will also discuss recommended changes and a proposed

timeline for implementing those changes as well as ways to market the existing and upcoming

accommodations and programs.

Statistics

While some disabilities have obvious outward signs like the white tipped cane used by blind

individuals or wheelchairs and other aids used by patrons with mobility issues, not all disabilities

are as obvious. The Invisible Disabilities Association defines an invisible disability as a physical,

mental or neurological condition that limits a persons movements, senses, or activities that is

invisible to the onlooker (2017). Invisible disabilities include attention deficit hyperactivity

disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), learning disorders, sensory processing

disorder (SPD), some visual impairments, and hearing impairment or deafness, among others.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of 2011, 11% of children in the

United States had been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) (CDC,

2017). The National Institute of Mental Health explains that ADHD is a brain disorder marked
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by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with

functioning or development (2017). ADHD presents in one of three forms: primarily hyperactive

type, primarily inattentive type, and combined type (CDC, 2017).

The CDC notes that Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) occurs in roughly 1.5% of United States

children (CDC, 2017). The CDC describes ASD as a developmental disability that can cause

significant social, communication and behavioral challenges (CDC, 2017). People with ASD

may repeat certain behaviors or have strange behaviors (CDC, 2017). They may also be highly

focused on one topic of interest, such as cars or astronomy (CDC, 2017).

The National Center for Education Statistics noted that 6.6 million students enrolled in public

schools in the United States during the 2014-2015 school year had received services under the

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; of those 35% were classified as having a specific

learning disability (National Center for Education Statistics, 2017). According to the CDC, a

learning disorder means that a child has difficulty in one or more areas of learning, even when

overall intelligence or motivation is not affected (2017). Forms of learning disability include

dyslexia and dyscalculia, which affect learning reading and math, respectively (CDC, 2017).

Other learning disabilities include dysgraphia, which affects writing, and auditory and visual

processing disorders and nonverbal learning disabilities (CDC, 2017).

Furthermore, the Star Institute for Sensory Processing Disorder reported on two studies that place

the percentage of children in the United States with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) at

between 5% and 17% (2017). They explain that SPD exists when sensory signals are either not
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detected or dont get organized into appropriate responses (Star Institute for Sensory Processing

Disorder, 2017). People with SPD may have difficulty completing tasks because they do not

perceive sensory input in the same way as other people.

According to the Centers for Disease Controls Vision Health Initiative, Approximately 14

million people age 12 years and older have self-reported visual impairment (2015). The risk of

having a visual impairment increases with age and with lack of health insurance (2015). The

Hearing Health Foundation noted that 48 million Americans have some form of hearing loss

(2017).

Current Accommodations

Technology Coordinator John Ross explained that sound and contrast can be changed on

Windows computers, but an administrator is required to make those changes. As he explained,

software that protects patron privacy locks out or restricts some settings, requiring administrative

intervention. He also noted that both Microsoft Word and Google Docs have voice-typing

capability built into the software. However, I found that in Word 2016, voice typing is not

included. According to the Microsoft Community website, Windows 10 has Windows Speech

Recognition (WSR) that can be turned on prior to using Word (Microsoft Community, 2017).

This is located in the Control Panel of the Start Menu (Microsoft Community, 2017). Once WSR

and the microphone are turned on, WSR can be trained to recognize a users voice (Microsoft

Community, 2017). Since patrons cannot access the control panel from public access computers,

an administrator must turn this on for them. Patrons with a Google account can access Google

Docs on all public access computers, and voice typing is listed under tools. Patrons wishing to use
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Word or Google Docs for voice typing will need headphones with a microphone attached or a

private workspace to enable them to use this feature without disturbing other patrons. One option

is to place a public access computer in a study room with WSR turned on and instructions posted

about how to use voice typing in each of the two available word processors that offer it.

Mr. Ross also noted that there are additional resources in the area for patrons with disabilities.

Among those resources are The Ohio Library for the Blind and Physically Disabled in Cleveland,

Ohio. He noted that Mansfield, Ohio, has a larger deaf community than Ashland does, and I

found a sign language program at North Central State College in Mansfield, Ohio.

Additional accommodations for those with disabilities include Braille signage on library doors

(such as restrooms), which were added as part of recent renovations and were noted by Mr. Ross

and Director William Rutger. The green signs that denote areas for returns, staff rooms, etc. have

braille and raised print, both of which aid blind and visually impaired patrons. Mr. Rutger also

explained that automatic doors were added as part of the renovations. Mr. Ross noted that patrons

with disabilities can take advantage of audiobooks and Playaways as well as other resources

available through the consortium while Hayley Tracy-Bursley noted that Youth Services

accommodates children with disabilities by providing adaptive and sensory toys for checkout. She

explained that sensory toys are purchased with disabled children in mind since these toys can be

more of an investment than some parents can afford. She also explained that parents can make use

of study rooms to remove children from situations in which the children are overwhelmed.
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On the youth side, accommodating children with disabilities is part of every program. As Ms

Bursey pointed out, awareness, education, and getting to know the children are important. She

also stressed the idea of being sensitive and reserving judgment. Some special things that are done

to help children with disabilities include the silent hour at the beginning of the Touch a Truck

program, in which the horns and sirens are not used. As she said, this program can get quite loud

when the horns and sirens are used, and not all children like that. It is an accommodation that

makes sense for all children, some of whom may be afraid of the horns and sirens but still want to

participate. For children with a sensitivity to noise, this allows participation without fear or pain.

Ms Bursey also noted that there is some after hours programming for children with disabilities.

Adrienne Shores and I discussed the idea of the BookMobile as outreach to the disability

community, and it is. The BookMobile stops at the Dale Roy School and Training Center in

Ashland, which is a school for children and adults ages 3-22 with disabilities (Ashland County

Board of Developmental Disabilities, 2010). She also noted that there are lobby stops at local

nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Proposed Improvements

Ashland Public Library staff provide many services for patrons with disabilities. Some of those

services may be provided unintentionally as part of good customer service. Some may be

provided in order to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and others are intentional.
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However, there is always more that can be done. Since what is known about disabilities changes

over time, accommodations and services to those with disabilities must also change over time.

Staff training has been mentioned by multiple staff as a necessary part of accommodating people

with disabilities, and that is my experience as well. Regardless of how much staff think they know

about the disabilities that patrons live with, there is always room to learn more. While Ms Bursey

pointed out that youth staff undergo training as part of their continuing education, that is not

consistent across all staff. People with disabilities may respond differently than other patrons, and

staff must take care to respond appropriately. Understanding that adults and children are affected

by a range of disabilities is a start. Staff must also recognize that while different people with the

same disability likely have similarities, each person is unique and can have different aspects of

the disability.

Sensitively marketing existing accommodations as well as finding ways to work with what is

already being done are a must. Within the library, marketing these accommodations and resources

to patrons in general rather than limiting marketing to specific disability groups will help to

remove the stigma of disability or the discomfort some patrons have discussing their need for

accommodations. It also allows patrons to retain their privacy by not forcing them to explain

medical diagnoses that they may prefer not to discuss. Making these accommodations and

resources available to all patrons also means that those patrons who need them do not feel singled

out from other patrons.


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Current accommodations and services that can be marketed to the general public include the voice

typing options mentioned previously. Playaways and audiobooks can also be marketed to the

general public as alternatives to print books. The toy collection, including Playaway launchpads,

can also be marketed to the general public while serving as disability accommodations and

services. BookMobile is another service that can be marketed to the general public but that also

serves individuals with disabilities, especially if the access features of the BookMobile are noted

in marketing. Promoting the idea that patrons are welcome to use available meeting rooms to

remove themselves or those in their care from situations that are causing undue stress could also

be done. This is being done to an extent on some promotional materials for childrens

programming in which caregivers are encouraged to remove their children from the room if they

become disruptive.

While marketing existing accommodations and services to the general public is needed, specific

marketing to the local disability community is also important. Ms Shores mentioned the Ashland

County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (MRDD) and LINKS, and I

would recommend working with them along with Dale Roy School to modify existing programs

for older children and adults with developmental disabilities or to create new programs for those

individuals. Many of the storytimes for little learners could be modified for older children and

adults with developmental disabilities. A storytime could be created for these individuals that

mimics preschool storytimes or Pages for All Ages. STEAM activities could also be offered, as

could a sensory exploration time for these individuals. These special programs could be offered

either at the library or at other places within the community such as the BookMobile stop at the

Dale Roy School. Presenting these offerings to the Ashland County Board of MRDD, Dale Roy
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School, and LINKS would have to be done with care and respect, but it could be done.

Encouraging these individuals to use the library opens the door to encouraging their caregivers to

use the library as well -- increasing the perception of the library as a place where all are welcome.

Beyond marketing existing accommodations and services, I would recommend several additions.

One of those additions is adding OpenDyslexic font to the Word and Google Docs on all library

computers. OpenDyslexic is an open source font designed to aid people with dyslexia

(OpenDyslexic, 2017). According to the OpenDyslexic website, this font is free for Commercial

and Personal use (OpenDyslexic, 2017). While the developers do not claim that OpenDyslexic

works for everyone, it is one tool that can make reading easier for individuals with dyslexia.

Replacing existing shelf signage with signs that include a mix of pictures and words would help

patrons with a variety of disabilities. While creating such signs can require a significant

investment of staff time, there are ways to make the creation of such signs a marketing tool for the

library. One way to do so is to sponsor a contest asking the public to create signs and offering a

small prize and/or recognition to the winning designers. Once signs are submitted to the library,

they can be displayed in the library. There could be a staff contest with an incentive prize (like an

extra hour for lunch one day) for creating signs. The contest ideas spread out the work of creating

new signs while making it fun and competitive. Creating picture signs needs to be done with an

awareness that too many contrasting colors can pose problems for patrons with color blindness or

other visual difficulties, but all signs could be submitted with the understanding that staff will edit

signs as needed to make them work better for patrons and staff.
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I also recommend adding some standing tables to the library. While there are some tables in the

adult area that can be used as standing tables, they currently have computers on them. Patrons can

move the chairs to the side to use the computers if they prefer to stand to work rather than sit.

Having a few standing tables located on the perimeter of the room that allow patrons stand to

work rather than sit provides an additional option for patrons who need it. Standing tables can

benefit patrons with a range of disabilities. Patrons with SPD, ADHD, and some mobility issues

benefit from this alternative seating, and it is more cost effective than other forms of seating such

as exercise discs or wobble chairs since standing tables can often be created by adjusting the

height of existing tables.

Implementation Plan

Implementing these changes will take time. I would recommend increasing marketing of existing

programs and services to library patrons and the public at large through social media, the library

website, and promotional materials within the library. This will allow patrons and potential

patrons to voice their opinions of what is currently being done as well as opening the door for

patrons to request services that they need. Patrons and potential patrons may not be aware of the

accommodations and services currently offered, which could explain why some of those

accommodations and services are not being used or are being underused.

I would also begin staff training, perhaps by using Staff Site or staff email to provide information

about a variety of disabilities and how to work with patrons who have them. The American

Library Association, the CDC, and the National Institute of Mental Health are good places to start

to find information and articles. The library website links to MedlinePlus and NetWellness, which
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also have information about a variety of disabilities -- visible and invisible. Another avenue for

staff training would be to partner with staff at the Ashland County Board of MRDD, Dale Roy, or

LINKS to provide the training.

I would then move to modifying existing services and resources to accommodate patrons with

disabilities. Adding standing tables and installing OpenDyslexic font on library computers would

occur at this point, as would reaching out to the Ashland County Board of MRDD, Dale Roy, and

LINKS for suggestions about how to modify existing programs for adults and children with

disabilities. Once those changes are made, posting signs at computer workstations to advertise

OpenDyslexic would be a simple way to market the change. Once existing programs are modified

for individuals with disabilities, marketing those programs to the previously mentioned groups as

well as through social media and the library website will be the next steps.

Conclusion

Much is already being done at the Ashland Public Library to accommodate and serve patrons with

disabilities. However, there is always room for improvement. As Heather Jensen pointed out, a

balance is needed among need, cost, and space. It may never be possible to do everything that can

be done, but a series of small steps leads to big change. Starting small and building on what is

already being done will be keys to improving service to those in the disability community.

References
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Ashland County Board of Developmental Disabilities (2010). Child & student services. Retrieved

from http://ashlandcbdd.org/acbdd-child-services.php

Invisible Disabilities Association (2017). What is an invisible disability? Retrieved from

https://invisibledisabilities.org/what-is-an-invisible-disability/

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2017). Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: Data

& statistics. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/data.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2017). Autism spectrum disorder: Facts and

statistics. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/facts.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2017). Autism spectrum disorder: Data & statistics.

Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2017). Child development: Learning disorder.

Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/childdevelopment/learning-disorder.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2015). Vision health initiative: National data.

Retrieved June 3, 2017 from https://www.cdc.gov/visionhealth/data/national.htm

Microsoft Community (2017). How do you get speech recognition in Microsoft word 2016?

Retrieved from https://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/msoffice/forum/msoffice_word-

mso_windows8/how-do-you-get-speech-recognition-in-microsoft/4dc11fca-147d-4102-

baa1-9513bac45b4d

Hearing Health Foundation (2017). Hearing loss & tinnitus statistics. Retrieved June 3, 2017 from

https://hearinghealthfoundation.org/statistics

National Center for Education Statistics (2017). Children and youth with disabilities. Retrieved

from https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_cgg.asp

OpenDyslexic (2017). Retrieved from https://opendyslexic.org/


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Star Institute for Sensory Processing Disorder (2017). About SPD. Retrieved from

https://www.spdstar.org/basic/about-spd