To some extent, who we are affects where we live, where we go to school, and our health – all things that impact our information seeking behaviors. People with disabilities are no different. Disabled people of color, poor disabled people, and disabled immigrants frequently face different issues than white, middle class disabled people. Issues specific to these groups are often not widely known because people in these groups are often not in positions of leadership in well-known disability organizations. For example, disabled people who do not speak English as their first language often avoid the library due to combinations of ableism (disability discrimination), language barriers, and xenophobia/racism. Below, Karen Diaz explains how her experiences with library security guards (as the Spanish-speaking mother of an autistic child) led her to avoid the library.
Multiply marginalized communities might also have concerns about excessive data collection, requirements to provide home addresses or phone numbers to sign up for events, financial costs for participation in library programs and events, transportation concerns, or fear of police and security presence. These groups also experience disproportionate amounts of violence by police and security guards , and increased incidence of sexual abuse. Sensitivity to these sorts of issues can help ensure that multiply marginalized people with disabilities feel safe and welcome at the library.
As a result, one-size-fits-all (or “universal”) design of library services will not truly meeting the needs of users – even if you’re planning with disabled community members in mind.
Pause for Reflection
Check out the following hashtags and curate a list of issues of importance to different disability communities:
Think about 3 library policies: one about behavior, one about the physical space, and one program policy. How might these impact disabled people differently from nondisabled people? How might they impact a library user with a disability who was experiencing homelessness? Who did not speak English? A disabled library user who is also a person of color?
How do you know?
What have people in these groups said about the issues that your chosen policies have raised?