Tag Archives: united kingdom

Accessibility of Library Facilities by Wheelchair Users: The Case of Libraries in Lagos State, Nigeria

Article Authored By: Christopher Nkiko, Jerome Idiegbeyan-Ose, Promise Ilo, Ifeakachuku Osinulu, & Goodluck Ifijeh

Reviewed by: Leslie Archuletta, Stephanie Murakami, Jessica Roesch, Meghan Soucier, and Kacy Wilson

Link to article: https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/libphilprac/4189/

Article Synopsis

Accessibility is an important commitment that libraries must make in order to ensure diverse and differently-abled users who can benefit from full utilization of library resources. This study examines libraries in Lagos State, Nigeria in order to understand inaccessibility of wheelchair library users. The researchers made personal observations of library buildings which were photographed. The findings of this study indicated that wheelchair users’ needs were not being met. There were no ramps and users often needed to be carried up steps. The desks and shelves were too high and the bathrooms did not have toilets which were wheelchair friendly. Recommendations were then made in order to address the severe lack of thought when designing for differently-abled patrons.

International Perspective

This article represents an international perspective from the standpoint of investigating wheelchair users’ needs at libraries in Lagos State, Nigeria. In addition to Nigeria, the study speaks to libraries in the United Kingdom, United States, and Singapore. The article explains that libraries in developed countries such as the ones listed above have made strides in order to ensure all patrons have access by building ramps and ensuring that circulation desks are able to accommodate wheelchair users. However, the one question which is not answered is: How can international libraries and associations in developed countries help less developed countries? While Nigeria is currently not meeting access needs for differently-abled patrons, perhaps with more developed countries paving the way and greater access to resources, more consideration will be taken when designing their libraries. The article’s recommendations to redesign, enact laws, and for the differently-abled to form groups places responsibility amid a variety of people. Ultimately having equal access to information is a right of all individuals and is important to make sure the differently-abled are included.

Research Questions
1. Is the library building accessible to wheelchair users?
2. Are the heights of the circulation desks accessible to them?
3. What challenges do wheelchair users face when accessing the library catalogues?
4. What challenges do they face when using the library shelves?
5. What problems do wheelchair users face when using the restrooms in the library?


The assessment was made using qualitative methods. Visits were made to 42 institutions/ facilities in both the public and private sectors. These observational visits took place over a six-month period from February to August 2017. No more than three hours maximum were spent at the institutions/facilities. Observations were recorded on a Surface Pro laptop equipped with Job Access with Speech software. In addition, data sources such as Jamaica Gleaner, Jamaica Observer and the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) were used. This research was presented through colonial and post-colonial frameworks.

Findings and Conclusions

Accessibility for differently-abled patrons within Nigerian libraries is very limited. Studies found that most library buildings are not wheelchair accessible and are poorly designed for patrons with disabilities. All of the universities located in Nigeria were found to have non-functioning lifts or ramps for their disabled students to use. Universities that had more than one floor were inaccessible for wheelchair bound patrons as well as the visually impaired. This limited the amount of information that could be accessed by their differently-abled patrons. While designing the libraries and universities, there wasn’t any consideration that included patrons with disabilities.
The studies that were done by Nkiko et al. (2020) proved how inconvenient it was for patrons in wheelchairs to navigate through the rows of the libraries. Several of the buildings contained numerous flights of stairs and/or spiral staircases that were inaccessible for wheelchair users. Among the poorly designed buildings, many of the library’s circulation desks were too high for wheelchair-bound patrons to reach. Not only was the height of circulation desks too high, but the card catalogs and the bookshelves were inaccessible as well. This forced wheelchair users to ask for help if they needed an item located on the top shelf. In addition, Nkiko et al. (2020) found that there weren’t any toilets in the bathrooms designed for wheelchair users. The toilets were not designed for people with disabilities that may struggle in using a standard toilet.
After the libraries and universities were built, Nkiko et al. (2020) discovered that several countries are faced with financial hardships. This may make it harder for countries to update and upgrade their libraries to accommodate wheelchair users. People in wheelchairs should be able to move comfortably and freely within the library and reach all parts of the library. Patrons in wheelchairs should be able to gain access to information without having to struggle through the library to get it. If Nigeria chooses to build new libraries in the future, they need to ensure that wheelchair-bound patrons are included in planning and implementing the design.
Nigeria needs to start by updating the libraries they have first by providing ramps at the entrances, moving materials that are unreachable, creating a circulation desk that can be used by all, and adding toilets that can be used by patrons with disabilities. Accessibility to information should be accessed by all individuals, creating spaces that are inclusive for everyone will increase the value of the library. In the end, the government should pass laws to help their underfunded libraries enhance their facilities to accommodate not only the wheelchair-bound patrons but the differently-abled patrons as well. Punishment should be doled out to organizations that break these laws. On the other hand, the differently-abled community should form pressure groups to influence their government in providing access to libraries for everyone.

What American Libraries Can Learn

In the United States, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Universal Access, 2020) address many of the challenges experienced by wheelchair library-users. Although the work of Nkiko et al. (2020) focuses on libraries in Nigeria, it teaches us that all libraries, even when facing financial difficulties, should at least have the following available for wheelchair library users:
• automatic entry-doors
• ground floors equipped with all the facilities and resources available to other library users
• special shelves constructed to house information materials for wheelchair users
• adjustable toilets
• catalogue cabinets that can be consulted while seated
• accessible circulation desks

On a grander scale, the work of Nkiko et al. (2020) stresses to American libraries that inequitable access of differently-abled users is an international issue. No solutions are offered in the work of Nkiko et al. (2020), but common practices put forward by the American Library Association include participating in international relationship roundtables, involving oneself in causes like the Endowment Campaign, and establishing a sister library (IRRT, 2020). In conclusion, greater collaboration is needed between countries so that everyone can utilize the many tools and resources available at the library.


International Relations Round Table (IRRT). (2020). American Library Association. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/rt/irrt/irrtcommittees/irrtsisterlibrary/sisterlibrary.

Nkiko, C., Idiegbeyan-Ose, J., Ilo, P., Osinulu, I., & Ifijeh, G. (2020). Accessibility of library facilities by wheelchair users: The case of libraries in Lagos State, Nigeria. Library Philosophy and Practice (e-journal). 4189. Retrieved from https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/libphilprac/4189/.

Universal access: making library resources accessible to people with disabilities. (2020). Retrieved October, from https://www.washington.edu/doit/universal-access-making-library-resources-accessible-people-disabilities.

Digital literacy and digital inclusion TeachMeets in London and Leeds

Reviewed By: Kathleen Heslop, Jason Patrone, Jamie Westfold

Link to article: https://ojs.lboro.ac.uk/JIL/article/view/CC-V10-I1-2/2317

Article synopsis:
The article is a summary of meetups organized by two independent non-profits who champion digital information literacy, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals’s Information Literacy Group (ILG) and the Tinder Foundation, a UK based charity that promotes positive digital use. The Tinder Foundation has since been renamed the Good Things Foundation. The goal of the two organizations was to bring different types of libraries together to discuss how libraries can utilize resources to assist older patrons, keep up with new technologies and policy changes. The meetup tackled issues specific to the UK, such as welfare reform and assisting seniors navigate it, in addition to international issues. Most libraries will have aging populations and increasing technological demands, therefore the topics have universal appeal.

Core research question:
The UK government has developed an equity program known as the Government Digital Strategy whose goal is to make all government services accessible online in a manner that is usable by all communities. The service is marketed with the tagline Digital by Default: “digital services that are so straightforward and convenient that all those who can use them will choose to do so whilst those who can’t are not excluded” (Cabinet Office, 2012). The TeachMeets tech conferences were held in order to discuss these practical, everyday information needs echoing the government’s Digital by Default message: How can access to basic government and community services be more inclusive?

Research Methods:
The participants in the conferences represented three library types: public, academic, and ‘further education’ (high school) who voted and settled on six topics to be covered. Short, peer-led presentations were followed by longer discussions of the six themes. Certain trends emerged from the discussions: establishing sub-themes, identifying barrier to implementation, examining case studies, and sharing best practices. The meeting format is useful for different library staff members to share ideas or experiences. It identifies concerns, challenges and solutions another location may have already found. Post-event evaluations expressed praise for the communal, self-led, sharing framework; it was obvious that the librarians enjoyed collaborating with peers rather than being lectured to by outside ‘experts’ or consultants. Complaints about the conferences’ methodology pointed towards perceived domination of the further education contingent as well as too much time spent discussing academic rather than (one can assume) practical concern. The fact that many participants complained about the conferences being too short is a final testament to their overall success (Tinder Foundation, 2016).

Findings and conclusions:
The studies ultimately determined that three historically disenfranchised populations should be targeted for inclusivity efforts: the elderly, non-native English speakers, and the poor. The discussion of accessibility for the elderly touched on personal computer skills. The example was given of an older person who is accustomed to using a public computer and therefore has immediate help if needed. However, when they get a personal computer, they are faced with tech tasks they never learned (physical set up, installing updates, contacting ISP’s, etc). Libraries could provide small groups or one on one sessions to teach elderly patrons about new technology. Libraries should empower older patrons to use technology either through showcases or bringing digital books to homebound patrons in file form. English language learners’ access to social media was another concern: how do they access untranslated sites in public spaces? Finally, UK residents who relied on public assistance are forced to adjust to new welfare laws (Universal Credit / Jobcentres) pushing them into more of a ‘workfare’ system. This population is now being asked to apply to jobs online, so more training in web forms is needed.
Three other conclusions were reached relating more to staff than patrons:
1) Volunteers: use to cover different areas and give more in depth assistance, use more in a relationship-building ways, such as delivering books to homebound patrons, leading workshops, or as one-on-one tutors. Having knowledgeable volunteers to give in depth technological assistance to the public would be an invaluable resource; however, it might be difficult to find volunteers with the necessary skills to teach the technology;
2) Other technology: libraries should offer devices other than desktop computers, including tablets, smartphones, and “Breezies.”
3) Tech training: again, since more and more patrons are bringing their own devices to libraries, staff should know how to access library services on them and should be trained in troubleshooting a variety of mechanisms. Libraries should create opportunities for their staff to experience and learn more about available technology. If the library can create a culture of exploration and experimentation with new technologies their employees will feel more comfortable assisting patrons, even if they are unfamiliar with the device.

What Can American Libraries Learn?
Many of the issues discussed in the TeachMeets could be applied to international communities and are not limited to the UK. Most American public libraries have to deal with some sort of digital divide, whether that is due to having an elderly community, non-Native English speakers, or economically disadvantaged residents. Any of the theories discussed by the TeachMeets might be easily put into practice at a library in the United States. US libraries should understand that many of their patrons have practical information needs. Sure, many patrons approach the reference desk with esoteric, trivial queries, but vulnerable communities may not have the luxury of spending time musing on obscure topics.

Cabinet Office. (2012). Government digital strategy. Retrieved from https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/296336/Government_Digital_Stratetegy_-_November_2012.pdf

Tinder Foundation. (2016). What place does digital inclusion have in digital literacy? Tinder Foundation/CILIP ILG TeachMeet facilitator summary report. Retrieved from https://www.goodthingsfoundation.org/sites/default/files/research-publications/teachmeetfacilitatorreportfebruary2016.pdf