Wednesday, November 20, 2019

#NYLA2019 : Programming for All Abilities

Speakers: Amy Smith, Red Hook Public Library, and Jason Thomas, Newburgh Free Library

Description: Libraries have a mission to serve everyone but, when it comes to programming, children, teens, and adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities are often overlooked. Many libraries would like to begin programs, but don’t know where to start. At the same time, families and caregivers are looking for opportunities for their loved ones, clients, and students, to socialize, learn and have fun in a public setting.   Based on both the Red Hook Public Library and Newburgh Free Library’s “All Abilities” programs, this presentation shows how to add programs for all age groups with cognitive disabilities without breaking the budget.  Whether it’s adding a monthly social hour, or developing regular adaptive story time, there are options for libraries of any size.


Why do this?
  • Develop relationships with community organizations 
  • Support the needs of patrons 
  • Develop relationships between you patrons and staff
  • These programs will make you happy
  • Staff may be hesitant - they may have incorrect perceptions. You can model acceptance. 
  • You may not know where to begin. You do  not need to be an expert.  These programs are not a substitute for schooling.  They are focused on trying new things and meeting new people. Yes, you will make mistakes and that’s okay. 
  • You don’t want to ask absolutely it specific diagnosis and breach privacy. However, you may receive funds for programs for specific diagnosis.
  • Diagnostic language may not be clear and may sound out of touch.
  • Language can also be overly vague.
  • People will not come to a program if the language is unclear and they don’t know if it will be appropriate.
  • Don’t use words that could be condescending.
  • “All abilities” is an improv crazy risk. Include other specific language to help person.
  • Person first language vs identity first language. 
  • Disability culture
Who will come?
  • People who already come to your library. Those all abilities programs are for them, even if they attend other programs. 
  • People from specific organizations. 
  • Start small
  • Make the marketing clear.  Consistency can help.
Who will come?  Adults:
  • Where in the library do you do these?
  • To register or not?
  • Will you take photos?
  • What time of day?
  • Openly advertise programs
  • Do scheduled programs for specific individual groups
  • Program in a box
  • Off hour activities by request
Who will come?  Teens:
  • All abilities volunteer programs
  • Treat the program with respect and give rewards
  • Do the work with them.  That is a way to show respect.
Who will come?  Kids:
  • All abilities story time - people think this will be easy, but it isn't. Don’t start with this. 
  • Music and movement
  • Big family events.  Red Hook opens an hour early at some events for those with all abilities.  Registration required.  Add the information to the event email that already exists. 
  • When you do activities with those at the all abilities events, you are not othering them.

Quick Thoughts

Smith and Thomas are enthusiastic and knowledgeable about this topic, with great examples. What stood out to me is that developing activities and events for all abilities requires changing your perspective, but that once you have done it, it will become natural.  One thing to consider is to talk with those who are already doing these events. They can provide helpful tips, examples, and encouragement.

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