Herrick District Library's main branch near downtown Holland.
I was recently invited by the Herrick District Library to lead a diversity, equity, and inclusion training session. I was impressed by the library’s commitment to making sure its staff has different training opportunities to ensure that they know about all kinds of communities and that the staff has refresher training on how to interact with and support patrons with disabilities.
There's always room for improvement and growth, because programs and physical access are good for everybody, not just for people with disabilities.
The library is gearing up for a major renovation
of its main campus this summer, and the first step was to invite residents to share their ideas. It’s important for people with disabilities to go to those and to be a voice, because how else are people going to know how to make improvements or how to best serve the community?
I appreciated this opportunity to give some feedback. In general, it's important for us as individuals with disabilities to be part of those conversations. When I used to do advocacy work, I always looked for these opportunities because that's the way we can bring our voice to these projects.
All of us will experience disability at some point. Perhaps it's something you are born with or acquire, or you become temporarily disabled. You may be a parent of a child with a disability or a caregiver.
We think so much about physical structures, but people need to think more about program access as well. What if you need sign language interpreters? What if you need an alternative format to look at a meeting agenda? Those are things you can request as well.
It's awesome that a library community wants to be universally inclusive. Inclusion is a big word now, but it means more physical access. A lot of people just focus on that, but there's this whole other layer of access that members of the disabled community have the opportunity to spotlight.
This article is a part of the year-long series Disability Inclusion, exploring the state of West Michigan’s growing disability community. The series is made possible through a partnership with Centers for Independent Living organizations across West Michigan.
Enjoy this story? Sign up
for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.