While non-disabled designers and librarians do their best to make library experiences accessible, students with disability hold the key to success. The idea of co-design is not new in building design. However, libraries are both a building and a service. This is the issue tackled in a research study where students showed how to implement accessibility and universal design.
The level of accessibility for students with disability has improved, but it is still not enough. Restrictive rules, lack of adapted communications systems and unsuitable signage are part of the problem. Students with disability should be involved from the outset when a new product or system is introduced – it’s a universal design approach.
The article on the research study found three main ideas: communication, service and usage. The researchers said that if they learned one thing, it was the importance of giving a voice to students with disability. Also, mutual learning and knowledge sharing was found to build good relationships between staff and students.
Although librarians generally display an inclusive management style, barriers to students with disabilities remain widespread. Against this backdrop, a collaborative research project called Inclusive Library was launched in 2019 in Catalonia, Spain. This study empirically tests how involving students with disabilities in the experience design process can lead to new improvements in users’ library experience. A mix of qualitative techniques, namely focus groups, ethnographic techniques and post-experience surveys, were used to gain insights from the 20 libraries and 20 students with disabilities collaborating in the project. Based on the participants’ voices and follow-up experiences, the study makes several suggestions on how libraries can improve their accessibility. Results indicate that ensuring proper resource allocation for accessibility improves students with disabilities’ library experience. Recommendations for library managers are also provided.