How Accessible Do Libraries Have to Be for Visitors Living with Blindness or Visual Impairments?

Libraries play a crucial role in communities across the world. In the United States alone, there are around 116, 867 libraries catering to schools, colleges, and the general public.

And with approximately 1.3 billion people living with one kind of visual impairment or another worldwide, libraries have the responsibility to be accessible for all visitors. But what does this mean and what technological advances can help improve the situation even further?

The American Disabilities Act and Library Accessibility

The American Disabilities Act (ADA), established in 1990, requires any organization or business offering a service to members of the public to follow specific accessibility regulations.  This is vital to ensure anyone can receive the assistance they need at their local library, whether that’s having access to audiobooks or the freedom to explore without risk of colliding with an obstruction in a walkway. The ADA stipulates:

  • text on signs should be large enough for visitors with impaired vision to read them, with contrasting colors aiding visibility
  • there should be no barriers causing blockages near entrances, exits, service desks or any other space which people would expect to be clear
  • lighting has to be bright without creating glare, and walls must not be overly dark (as this could impact visibility for those with poor eyesight)
  • stairs should be non-slip and have handrails for safe usage

These are just a few rules that should be in place at libraries to protect any visitors affected by blindness or impaired vision. Libraries can implement other accessibility measures to provide guests with a more welcoming experience, such as adding lighting to stairs to increase their safety.

A wide range of Braille books and audiobooks should be available too and thus offering a broad range of reading or research materials for those living with visual impairments or blindness.

But actually finding your way around a library can be difficult enough for people with healthy vision, let alone anyone without. Exploring stacks, finding the books you need, navigating stairways — there’s a lot to consider.  What can libraries do about that?

Indoor Orientation Solutions

An indoor orientation solution is a fantastic way to make libraries more accessible. RightHear is an innovative option for libraries looking to help their visitors find their way around easier. This could improve visitors’ library experience since they will have greater independence and boosted confidence.

RightHear works in conjunction with cutting-edge sensors installed throughout any interior. This smartphone app provides users affected by blindness or impaired vision with audio directions, minimizing their risk of becoming lost or walking into any potentially-dangerous obstructions.

By integrating an indoor orientation solution into their everyday operations, libraries can take their accessibility further to improve visitors’ experience of their site. Almost all of us have smartphones today, after all, and they’re equipped with a growing range of accessibility features to enable those with poor vision to use them. RightHear takes this much further.

 

Libraries should take advantage of the technology available today to make all visitors feel welcome and valued.