Disabilities Are No Obstacle to Library Service

A blind gentleman checks out audio and braille books from the Wolfner Talking Book and Braille Library after a library staff member helps him set it up.

A hearing-impaired student watches library DVDs with closed-captioning; she also has streaming TV and movie options through Hoopla.

A woman uses a free computer on the second floor of the Columbia Public Library with the help of a mobility scooter she’s borrowing from the library.
Disability ServicesThese are just a few examples of how those with physical impairments use library services every day. We want everyone to use this free public institution, so we strive to make it as accessible as we can for all by providing a range of special services and adaptive equipment.

As a public space, all of our facilities must meet the standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for accessible parking spaces, entryways, meeting rooms, restrooms and more. As an organization committed to providing access to information for all individuals, we look for ways to improve our services beyond the basic requirements.

Inspiration can come from anywhere. While at a grocery store, one of our staff members helped her family member use the store’s scooter and wondered if that could also work at the library. She presented her idea, and, with help of a grant, the Columbia Public Library purchased two mobility scooters and an exterior call box.

Some services are tried and true. For years, we have been making house calls to those with a long-term illness or disability. We bring them what they want and it brightens their days as expressed in this note from the daughter of an elderly patron: “I am grateful that in this time of human services cutbacks, the library maintains this service that has been such an important source of sustenance and stimulation — intellectual and social — to my mother and many others.”

Studies help guide us. In 2015, we conducted a self-evaluation of our facilities and services. We brought in an ADA expert who examined each building and offered suggestions on how we could improve. Overall, he gave us high marks, but we’ll be making some modifications in 2016, such as installing cane guards around drinking fountains, adding more automatic door openers and providing additional staff training on assisting patrons with disabilities.

Many library services are now available online at www.dbrl.org, which has advantages for those with mobility, hearing and vision impairments. So, even if it’s difficult for you to use the library building, you can still borrow eBooks, audiobooks, comics, magazines, music, movies and TV shows, some with closed captioning. You can do research or take classes through online tools like Universal Class, Learning Express Library and Lynda.com. In many ways, our website functions like its own branch library.

Our brochure “Equal Access to Your Public Library” details all our special services and adaptive equipment. Contact our ADA coordinator for a copy. Service organizations can request multiple copies to distribute to their clients.

How to request special assistance or accommodations

If you or someone you know needs additional assistance or if you have questions about library services, email us at help@dbrl.org, call your local library or contact our ADA coordinator at (573) 817-7016 or 1-800-324-4806.

Call (573) 817-7091 to apply for the home delivery service or get assistance with the Wolfner Talking Book and Braille Library.