Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Working with Library Patrons with Disabilities

"Treat others how you want to be treated." This includes library patrons who have disabilities. It seems simple, I know, but you wouldn't believe how often I've seen disabled adults talked to as if they were children. That is, if they're acknowledged at all - I've also seen people talk to the disabled person's helper as if the disabled person wasn't even there. No, no, no - don't do that.

Don't be intrusive. Just be there if he needs you.
Image via http://www.masterfile.com

You should never talk down to disabled library users, and do acknowledge their presence as you would the presence of any other visitor to the library. These are among the "Basic Tips for Working with Patrons with Disabilities" that Ruth Kitchin Tillman offers in her article for Hack Library School. Other things Tillman wants you to remember are:

1. If the person has a service dog, don't pay the dog more attention than the person. Sure, some people are uncomfortable around those with disabilities, so it's probably easier for them to address the dog than it is to address the person. Or it could be that you as a library worker are really into dogs. But the dog isn't there to check out a book; the owner is!

2. Don't be "that person" who asks intrusive questions about the disabled patron's life, including questions about health or disability. I mean, c'mon - that's just rude. If a patron with a bandaged hand approached the desk, you wouldn't say to him, "Wow, man! How'd that happen?" (At least I hope you wouldn't.) So don't ask the patron in a wheelchair, "How'd you end up in that?"

3. Don't assume what patrons with disabilities can and cannot do. For instance, although a person may be in a wheelchair, that doesn't mean that he or she is unable to stand. A person who uses a white cane to get around may still have some vision. "There's a broad spectrum of ability levels," says Tillman. "Don't police other people's levels of ability."

4. It's not OK to touch library users with disabilities, nor is it OK to reach out and grab their assistive devices - their wheelchairs, canes, whatever - without their permission. As you would with anyone, don't touch the disabled patron without asking him or her first. Just think about how much you like it when random people reach out and grab you.

5. Patrons with disabilities are much more than their disabilities, and thus they will have interests beyond their disability. Just because a person is using a white cane to get around the library doesn't mean that he or she will necessarily be interested in inspirational books about blind people. As you would with any other patron, let the disabled patron tell you what they've come to the library to find.

Tillman admits that "these things may seem ridiculously simple, even patronizing to point out." Still, she urges, "Treat people as people. It's not hard."

For more "Basic Tips for Working with Patrons with Disabilities," go HERE.

No comments:

Post a Comment