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Making Access Happen

Making Access Happen explores practical initiatives to reasonably accommodate library users with disabilities. It is based on four pilot projects in Cavan, Dublin City, Kildare and Mayo public library services.

A Space For All

The Library Access Project grew out of the meeting point of An Chomhairle Leabharlanna’s A Space for All initiative and the Equality Authority’s strategic aim of focusing attention on the provisions of the Equal Status Act, 2000 in relation to the reasonable accommodation of people with disabilities.

The aim was to ensure equality for people with disabilities in access to, and participation in, public library services, including within its ambit people with all types of disability.

Library Access

The programme of work began in September 2003 with the launch of Library Access, a jointly published booklet, which aimed to:

  • Support planned and systematic approaches to the reasonable accommodation of people with disabilities
  • Develop practical supports for providers of library services to make the adjustments and to provide the facilities necessary for the reasonable accommodation of existing and potential library users with disabilities
  • Stimulate effective change and the implementation of good practice in the provision of an inclusive public library service
  • Support compliance with the Equal Status Act, 2000, including making use of the provisions for positive action.

The Library Access Project was designed as a short programme of training interventions to inform and stimulate a range of practical initiatives in four library authorities.

Kildare's Approach

Kildare’s approach to the Library Access Project was informed by the existing strategies of the local County Council and County Development Board. The project fitted well with a number of other initiatives on inclusion already underway, along with the service’s long-standing practice of employing and also offering work experience to people with disabilities.

The focus adopted by Kildare in this project was to empower staff throughout the service to understand and engage directly with the processes which create exclusion, with a view to eliminating such processes from the library authority’s practice.

Actions and outputs:

  • Resulting from the initial training, headquarters and branch library staff developed their own work programmes, designating a person to monitor progress in each case
  • A “staff library” of disability-related material, based on a collection of all resources listed in Library Access, was developed in each branch library
  • A staff awareness handbook was produced
  • Training was delivered to all staff in the main branches using the Equality Authority model
  • Reasonable accommodation is now an agenda item at all staff meetings at all levels throughout the service. A headquarters staff member co-ordinates the programme as a whole, but responsibility for delivery is devolved to branches. Supports and monitoring will be continued at this level until reasonable accommodation is “automatic”
  • Each branch has established contact with local access and other disability groups. As well as identifying practical issues this contact functions as staff training and is also enabling branches to market their services to prospective customers with disabilities.
  • Library application forms have been redesigned
  • An interim library building refurbishment programme is in process of implementation e.g Naas Community Library was recently refurbished and adjusted to ensure accessibility issues are met as much as possible.

Next steps:

  • collection policies are being reviewed
  • suitable adjustments made to layout and design of current structures where practical eg Naas Community Library was refurbished and
  • New buildings are designed taking a comprehensive approach to accessibility. Leixlip Library is an example of this approach
  • An interim library building refurbishment programme is in process of implementation . Naas Community Library was recently refurbished and adjusted to ensure accessibility issues are met as much as possible.


The term “reasonable accommodation” is being used in Kildare as a spirit level for locating the library’s role in ensuring access for people with disabilities to all its services. The concept gives the libraries a perspective from which to remedy the diverse levels and layers of exclusion which affect many of its existing and potential customers.