What Are Accessible Library Materials?

Published June 21, 2022

Libraries have long been pillars of their communities, providing resources and access to materials and opportunities, especially to underserved and underrepresented populations. In particular, people with disabilities are heavy library users, seeking out materials that would otherwise be cost-prohibitive. 

Accessibility in media like Braille and talking books have existed for years, but the costs associated with these materials have only grown.

Libraries exist to close the gap between affordability and access, so it is critical that these institutions incorporate and procure accessible reading materials for an already underserved population.

Why have accessible materials?

One of the most significant barriers to media for people with disabilities is cost. Accessible materials that may be affordable in standard form skyrocket in cost in alternative formats. The cost associated with printing books in Braille, including an audio track, or publishing books in large print continue to increase while the incomes of many who use them have been squeezed. 

The price difference between the Braille version of Harry Potter and the standard print version is nearly $60. A $71 book is not affordable to the everyday reader, which puts many accessible materials out of reach. 

The same can be said for talking books. A standard talking book can be double or triple the cost of a paperback book. Though not as expensive as Braille, this can still be cost-prohibitive to most readers.

What are some examples of accessible materials?

Libraries carry many materials that fall under the umbrella of ‘accessible.’ In fact, they’ve been in libraries so long they’re commonplace now. 

One example is large-print books. Large print is one accessibility tool for people with vision loss or low vision. Often, these books are considered materials for older adults or senior citizens, but the truth is, they serve more than one population.

Many library patrons who don’t have vision loss or vision disabilities also use audiobooks, both in physical or multiple streaming formats libraries typically offer. Often, these are busy readers who don’t have time to sit down and consume large amounts of information at one time. Audiobooks provide not only convenience but also access to readers on the go or those with face barriers to print media. 

How can libraries offer more? 

Grants are often available for libraries to supplement their collections with more accessible and disability-friendly materials. Libraries are usually tax-funded, and expensive materials are hard to come by. But that doesn’t mean they can't be found or procured. 

Libraries have access to numerous unique grants to improve their services and bridge access gaps in their communities. Utilizing a disability-focused grant is a great way to identify funding specifically for accessibility. 

It’s also important to talk to the people in your community. Too often, people with disabilities are left out of the conversation about how best to serve them when so much insight is available from lived experience. Libraries can even host town halls to get feedback on the needs of their community and identify ways to overcome barriers they face. 

Conclusion

There have been considerable strides in the accessibility of library materials, especially with large print books and audiobooks; but there is still room for improvement. Ensuring up-to-date accessible materials and listening to people with disabilities within the library’s community are critical first steps to improving equitable access for all. 

 

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