What We’re Hearing

Services for People With Disabilities

Accessible EntrancePatrons of the Martin Luther King Jr. Library who use Adaptive Services have said they hope to feel welcome, comfortable and at ease in the newly renovated central library. Whether a disability impairs a person’s sight, vision or mobility, the library should accommodate everyone.
Below are some ideas expressed on surveys, in a focus group and through IdeaScale. Focus group participants were surprised to learn about the library renovation as the Library’s Adaptive Services Department was renovated recently. Last year, the Library of Congress recognized the renovation with a national award.
A Library for Everyone to Enjoy Together
Placing Adaptive Services, now located on the second floor, on the first floor could improve access and raise awareness of the services available.
At the same time, patrons said, people with disabilities should feel welcome in all areas of the library – integrated with and not isolated from other adults. And staff throughout the building should be prepared to assist and welcome people with special needs.
“Don’t be shocked to see us or treat us like we’ve gotten lost in the building,” one participant commented.
Design that Ensures Accessibility for All
One library patron asked the architects at the May 2014 community forum if the concept design accounts for people with special needs. The renovation designers confirmed that a major goals of the renovation is to improve access and all plans will adhere to Americans for Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for Accessible Design.
Library patrons have offered specific ideas for what’s called “universal design,” an approach that seeks to make spaces inherently accessible for everyone. These include:
·         Quiet heating and cooling systems with control panels in each room, as background noise can be distracting, especially for visually impaired patrons
·         Task lighting for customers with low vision
·         Meeting spaces with floor-to-ceiling walls to minimize background noise
·         Automatic doors that enable everyone to pass through without manually opening a door
Getting Around Safely
Library patrons with disabilities proposed some modifications to make it easier and safer to move around the building.
•      Automatic, double sliding doors at the main entrance
•      Elevators that are big enough to accommodate walkers, wheelchairs and even strollers
•      A separate elevator so people with disabilities don’t slow other people
•      ADA-compliant and accessible restrooms
•      Onsite parking
•      A waiting area in the lobby for Metro Access (a shared-ride, door-to-door service for people with disabilities)
People in wheelchairs or with other kinds of limited mobility are more at risk of tripping or falling due to hazards such as irregular flooring, door jams, or awkwardly sized and placed furniture. Patrons requested that designers consider such mobility challenges.
One patron expressed concern about safety in the building’s stairwells.
More of a Good Thing
Large Screen ReaderAdaptive Technologies are defined as assistive software, hardware and systems such as screen readers, speech-to-text and video-relay services which help people with disabilities access library programs and services. Patrons have requests for expanding the library’s offerings to include:
·         Computers with technology designed for people with disabilities (for a list of currently available adaptive technologies, click here)

·         Adaptive technologies available in areas such as Digital Commons, which offers classes in and access to technologies such as 3-D printing and scanning and more
·         A Braille self-publishing machine
View the DC Public Library Accommodation Statement, which includes Adaptive Services hours and contact information for the library’s manager of adaptive services and the deaf services librarian.