Universal Design & Libraries

This guest blog post is written by Carli Spina, Head Librarian for Assessment and Outreach at Boston College Libraries. She has extensive experience working on web design and technology projects as well as serving as a coordinator for services to patrons with disabilities. She has taught classes and workshops for librarians, academic staff, and students on a range of topics, including accessibility and web design. Visit Carli's website at http://carlispina.com.

Last month, I had the opportunity to talk to the SNAILS Group about Universal Design and how it can be applied to library spaces, programs, and services. Universal Design, a term coined by Ronald Mace, refers to design processes that take into account the needs of all potential users, including those with disabilities, elderly people, individuals who do not speak the dominant local language, and more. It goes beyond typical approaches to accessibility because it is not focused on minimum legal standards or separate accommodations for individuals with special needs, but instead on creating products, services, programs and more that are inherently inclusive. 

Since the initial development of Universal Design, it has been applied in a variety of settings, including in the field of education through the concept of Universal Design for Learning. Both of these concepts have applications in library settings. Whether you are planning new spaces in your library, developing inclusive services, or defining the learning goals of your programs, the principles of Universal Design and Universal Design for Learning can provide a helpful structure to your design efforts. Though it is important to acknowledge that Universal Design rarely achieves its goal of making end products that are equally usable for every possible user, the techniques and concepts associated with it can help to make libraries more inclusive.

My slides and handout lay out the main principles of both Universal Design and Universal Design for Learning. They also offer suggested readings that describe how to apply these concepts to several different aspects of librarianship, including children’s services and makerspaces. 

If you are interested in learning more about both accessibility and Universal Design, there is still time to sign up for my Introduction to Accessibility and Universal Design in Libraries course through Library Juice Academy or you can contact me on Twitter @CarliSpina.