Isla Boag. PhD student, University of Strathcylde

I’m a recently qualified librarian and PhD student at the University of Strathclyde. My research topic is information seeking behaviour following the development of a disability in adult life. I’m also co-administrator for the disability rights project @EverydayAbleism, which aims to create a safe space where all aspects of disability can be discussed.

I’m passionate about making information accessible to disabled people. Almost 12 million people in the UK live with a disability (Ofcom). However this group are statistically less likely to visit a library, compared to non-disabled people (DWP). What do you think librarians could do to change this?

Disabled people encounter numerous barriers to accessing information. To take one example, disabled people are disproportionately affected by the digital divide: fifty-five percent of disabled people in the UK have home Internet access, compared to 83% for non-disabled people (Ofcom 2013). This is closely linked to the high levels of poverty experienced by the disabled: 19% of individuals in families with at least one disabled member live in relative income poverty (DWP). Other barriers include: the unavailability of information in accessible formats.

I’m particularly interested in the role public libraries, working in conjunction with the voluntary sector, could play in co-ordinating information required by disabled people. Disability gives rise to a wide range of critical information needs: information relating to accessible transport; benefits; career counselling; employment law; and health, to name just a few.  At present this information is very compartmentalized and there is little co-ordination between the numerous agencies which supply it.

I would love to hear about any facilities or programmes you have in your library for disabled patrons. What do you think libraries could do to better support & empower this marginalized group?

Department for Work and Pensions (2013) Disability facts and figures, Available from: http://odi.dwp.gov.uk/disability-statistics-and-research/disability-facts-and-figures.php#14

Ofcom (2013) Available from: Disabled consumers’ ownership of communication services http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/market-data-research/other/telecoms-research/tce-disabled-13/?utm_source=updates&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=disabled-tce-13

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