Our first step was creating our Accessibility & Inclusion Advisory Committee (AIAC) to learn about barriers and brainstorm action areas for our first accessibility plan.
We had a short recruitment period and many people put their name forward to be on this committee. Our committee meets the requirements outlined in the Accessible BC Act and is made up of a mix of front-line and system ORL staff members, community members, and Indigenous representation. All participants in the committee have some connection to disability. Committee members may experience it themselves or they may care for or have family members experiencing a disability. The AIAC has chosen to stay anonymous in this plan. They represent a wide range of disabilities including low vision, Deafness, physical disabilities, mental health, and learning/memory disabilities. The ORL is also geographically widespread in the Okanagan our committee members are from different communities in our service area.
The AIAC worked collaboratively with us to share their experience and assessments to improve ORL accessibility and inclusion. In this process, the AIAC identified and then prioritized focus areas by sharing different experiences in their interactions with the library and their lives. They have provided advice to the ORL Management Team on strategies to reduce social, physical, and sensory barriers that prevent people from fully participating in the services, programming, spaces, and collections of the ORL. Finally, the AIAC helped review the planned feedback tools and this accessibility plan.
Our discussion with the AIAC included some great strategic thinking that has been subsequently shared with our strategic planning team. Some of these insights were realizing that not every library user is a reader and that there is a high correlation between disability & economic barriers. The AIAC is hopeful that our strategic planning teams can include accessibility and the undeniable mission of welcome.
The AIAC helped us learn more about living with a disability and the barriers that make it difficult to participate fully in our communities and our library. They brainstormed specific items that could be improved. These organized into three themes:
From these three themes Accessible Culture, Accessible Built Environment, and Accessible Technology came our focus areas. They are chosen to be broad in nature both to leave room for flexibility, but also to recognize the short timeline we have for this plan. These focus areas were prioritized according to the importance value given by our Accessibility and Inclusion Advisory Committee and the ease of implementation value from the ORL management team. Each item was ranked from 0 to 100 where 0 was not important/impossible to implement and 100 is very important/easy to implement. In the end a matrix is completed with four quadrants, primary effort, quick wins, innovation, and low priority.
We have plotted these areas into a Prioritization Matrix table to balance between importance, according to our committee, and ease of implementation, according to the ORL’s management team. This will help focus our efforts when improving accessibility in the coming years.
Focus areas that are in the primary effort quadrant are items that are a high priority and easy to accomplish. There are six focus areas that we will be focusing on:
Items in the quick win quadrant are easy to implement, but not high in importance. We have three focus areas that will be working on to create some quick wins.
Innovation focus areas are items that are highly important but difficult to complete and will require some innovative thinking to complete.
These items are more difficult to accomplish but are still relatively important. Our committee ranked most things high in importance, so while these are low priority, we recognize that to our committee and to various disabilities within these items they are still important.
The asigned points for each area are:
Our feedback tools will be evolving overtime with the upcoming standards and as we complete a new updated website. We will be creating multiple avenues for feedback with flexibility in use to allow people to use the method that’s easiest for them to use. Our multiple avenues are:
All these tools use Plain Language concepts and larger font sizes. We will be creating a FAQs page that will explain how feedback is handled and set expectations for how we address it.
Staff will be trained on these new processes – both how to handle feedback they’ve received but also how to help someone share their feedback.
As these improvements are made, we will be meeting with our Accessibility & Inclusion Advisory Committee and others in the disability community to learn more about how this is working to ensure continuous improvement.