Smashing the Barriers: Accessibility at KDL

By Shelley Roossien
Accessibility & Inclusion Specialist

Once upon a time, I was a young, fresh-faced college graduate looking for my first “big girl” job as a librarian. I had been working for KDL for three years, and I was given the opportunity to head up what was at the time KDL’s Library for the Blind & Physically Handicapped (now the KDL Talking Book & Braille Center), a unique role within the organization. And though I didn’t know it at the time, taking that position has steered my library career down a path that has led me to develop a passion for accessibility and to become an advocate for our patrons with disabilities.

Over the years, I continued to lead the TBBC program, getting audio and Braille books into the hands of patrons who are blind or have low vision and bringing the service to many who were previously unaware of its existence. However, blindness and low vision are not the only barriers to accessing library services in terms of disability. Mobility, deafness, hearing impairments and a wide range of social cognitive disorders all present distinct challenges to utilizing the library in full. With that in mind, KDL gave me a new opportunity to expand my role as the Talking Book & Braille Center Specialist into one that is more comprehensive and encompasses the entire disabled community — my new role as KDL’s first Accessibility & Inclusion Specialist.

As the Accessibility & Inclusion Specialist, the ultimate goal is to provide excellent and improved library services for people with disabilities. We will be working on revamping existing programs to make them more accessible, while creating new programs that are specifically designed for patrons with disabilities. Library collections will include materials that are informative and educational about disabilities, and innovative services will be explored, such as our new Sensory Packs. Our branch locations will look at ways to become more physically accessible, and we will work with community partners to enhance services throughout the organization. And above all, KDL staff will engage in ongoing training to ensure we are providing the best library experience possible to a person with disabilities.

I am excited to embark on this new journey with KDL and hope to provide meaningful change and growth throughout the organization that will ensure that patrons with disabilities receive accessible, inclusive and accommodating service with every library interaction.