What is Universal Design for Libraries

By Guest Blogger

Lo Claesson

Here is a short summary of the session “What is universal design for libraries? – A joint session by Library Services to People with Special Needs, Public Libraries and Library Services to Persons with Print Disabilities”:

The first speaker was Knut M. Nygaard, Director of Norwegian Library of Talking Books and Braille. He talked about different terminology, used for about the same concept as “universal design”. The aim of universal design is to simplify life for everybody. Target groups are everybody, regardless of age, size or ability. You can talk about universal design at threee levels: a strategic level (macro), technical solutions and standards (meso) and individual perspective (micro).

The next speaker was Anne Sieberns, German Institute for Human Rights. Her presentation was on Universal Design and Human Rights. There is a Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CPRD), which now (June 2018) is ratificated by 177 State Parties.
Then we heard about guidelines for universal design in Finnish libraries by Kirsi Ylänne, Celia Library Finland. The English translation of the guidelines is available (pdf) at https://www.celia.fi/eng/accessible-library/ . It is published on a Creative Commons  license and can be translated and adopted into other languages.

Then Mr Hiroshi Kawamura held an oral presentation on Universal Design an Print Disabilities – DAISY Technology and Accessible Multimedia. He stressad that universal design does not exclude assistent technology for those who need it. There is also an issue of accesibility for for example indigenous people. It´s a very complex matter.

We also got some best practices from the UK from Mark Freeman as Yarm Library, Chelmsford Library, Great Sankey and Ammanford Library. These libraries also include persons with autism or dementia in their design thinking.

Nancy Bolt from the section Library Services to People with Special Needs finished the session by summarazing what has been done in the section in recent years: Guidelines concerning people with Dyslexia, people experiencing homelessness and people who are deaf, hard of hearing and deaf/blind. They are planning to do guidelines concerning refugees and prisons as well. They are also suggesting how the IFLA conferences can be more accessible in the future. The on-going conference is not very accesible for people using wheel chairs.