Service to the ‘Most’ Vulnerable

In early September, I shared a post that I composed for my “Information Services for Specific Populations” course.  We’ve completed a number of assignments since early September, but this week, my instructor asked us to explore an article of our choosing addressing the needs of any specific population we cared to learn more about.

As was probably obvious from my lengthy post, support for individuals with cognitive disabilities is a matter of importance to me.  Thus, it was no surprise that I explored the issue further in this assignment.  In a special issue of Feliciter addressing changing demographics in libraries, I happened upon an article written by Heather Wray entitled “Protecting the Rights of the Most Vulnerable by Creating a Culture of Inclusion.”

Photo c/o Wikipedia Commons
Photo c/o Wikipedia Commons

Heather Wray writes “Protecting the Rights” from a place of personal experience, as both a librarian, and a mother of a child with a developmental disability (DD).  This article in particular not only defines and explains DDs, but also provides an overview of the challenges that individuals with DD face throughout their lifetimes, from literacy issues to mobility.  After a brief exploration of societal perspectives of DD, Wray acknowledges that her bias lies in the “social model of disability” in which conditions such as DDs are disabled by society itself rather than a condition.

Given this perspective and her experience as a public librarian, the author outlines ways in which libraries can “play a fundamental role in the elimination of such constraints.”  She points out that while some things are done well by libraries, libraries may take some simple steps to support those with DD.  Wray outlines six particular ways in which libraries can improve, including: reaching out to local organizations and parents who support individuals with DD; training staff in both awareness and communication; offering training for support staff and/or caregivers to preemptively optimize the experiences of patrons with DD; contextualize patrons with DD by including them in outreach campaigns; target patrons with DD through specific mailers sent to group residences or e-newsletters to caregivers; and finally, encouraging employment or volunteer opportunities for individuals with DD.

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Wray, H. (2013). Protecting the Rights of the Most Vulnerable by Creating a Culture of Inclusion. Feliciter, 59(3), 26. [Available freely on the CLA website]

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