The Jake Epp Public Library in Steinbach continues to find ways to improve accessibility.
Director Chrystie Kroeker Boggs says they have found support from the Centre for Equitable Library Access.
“Large print books, books that are read aloud that can correspond with computer programs for those who have any sort of visual impairment. So that's been something that we've been really proud of,” she says. “And we have a book mobile that goes to all the care homes in Steinbach, they've been really utilizing that service for some of our senior patrons.”
Kroeker Boggs says they appreciate hearing concerns and ideas from the public, helping the library improve accessibility, not only related to the building itself but also as it relates to literacy enjoyment at the library and at home.
From improving signage to making sure their inventory provides access to different views on controversial topics, she says there are many things involved with being able to offer literature in a way that works for everyone.
“All of our patrons have access to our eBook collection, it's a provincial collection,” says Kroeker Boggs. “That's a great way to also read, especially if you have vision issues, because you can either increase your font size or there's tons of audio books on our electronic collection as well.”
The Canadian Health Measures Survey released statistics in 2020 that indicated that 2.6% of children aged 6 to 19 and 1.4% of adults aged 40 to 79 have a visual impairment that cannot be corrected to 20/40 or better.
Statistics Canada also reported in 2020 that almost 2.7 million people or 1 in 10 Canadians aged 15 and older had a mobility disability in 2017, making it one of the most common disability types.
Kroeker Boggs says the library staff are mindful of the various challenges some people face when getting around the facility.
“That’s something very near and dear to my heart,” she says. “My daughter uses a wheelchair to get around and has a vision impairment. So that's something that is very, very important to me. Not just because of my daughter but it's the right thing to do for our community.”
A community member had recently suggested larger lettering for some of the signs and staff quickly acted on that improvement.
She says it is also important to remove financial barriers that might prevent people from participating in any of the activities that happen in the library. That is why there are no fees and participants do not need to have a library card to join those events. The only restrictions one might encounter would be age requirement or registration to reserve a spot as some groups have limited space availability.