Disabilities and the Library
Fostering Equity for Patrons and Staff with Differing Abilities
by Clayton A. Copeland, Editor
November 2022, 507pp, 7 x 10
1 volume, Libraries Unlimited

Paperback: 978-1-4408-5907-6
$80, £62, 70€, A110
Please contact your preferred distributor for pricing.
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-5908-3
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

A useful introduction to working with people who are differently abled, whether they’re patrons or colleagues.

Librarians need to understand the needs and abilities of differently abled patrons, and anyone responsible for hiring and managing librarians must know how to provide an equitable environment. This book serves as an educational resource for both groups.

Understanding the needs and abilities of patrons who are differently abled increases librarians’ ability to serve them from childhood through adulthood. While some librarians are fortunate to have had coursework to help them understand the needs and abilities of the differently abled, many have had little experience working with this diverse group. In addition, many persons who are differently abled are—or would like to become—librarians.

Disabilities and the Library helps readers understand the challenges faced by people who are differently abled, both as patrons and as information professionals. Readers will learn to assess their library’s physical facilities, programming, staff, and continuing education to ensure that their libraries are prepared to include people of all abilities. Inclusive programming and collection development suggestions will help librarians to meet the needs of patrons and colleagues with mobility and dexterity problems, learning differences, hearing and vision limitations, sensory and cognitive challenges, autism, and more. Additional information is included about assistive and adaptive technologies and web accessibility. Librarians will value this accessible and important book as they strive for equity and inclusivity.


  • Identifies the differently abled who are patrons and employees in libraries
  • Details the needs and abilities of a special clientele
  • Encourages the interest of management in hiring applicants who are differently abled
  • Includes chapters written by working librarians, educators, and researchers
  • Offers advice to strengthen services, programming, collection development, accessibility, and legal compliance
Clayton A. Copeland, PhD, is director of the iSchool Laboratory for Leadership in the Equity of Access and Diversity (LLEAD) and helps to manage the Linda Lucas Walling Collection for Disabled Children. Her research focuses on equity of access to information for underserved populations and literacy. She also pursues research interests in technology, universal design, facilities planning, materials and programming for children and young adults, and information behavior. Dr. Copeland teaches courses in foundations of library and information science, technology, information literacy, information resources, planning library and information facilities, and materials and programming.


Through the collection assembled here, Dr. Copeland shows that barriers are still present for many people with disabilities in accessing our libraries. More importantly, though, this collection offers true excitement and promising opportunities for libraries to embrace universal design and access. As a disability-led organization, we see this as a welcome and important primer for current, and future, librarians on their role in promoting equal access for all individuals. —Kimberly Tissot, President and Chief Executive Officer, Able SC and David Laird, Able SC

Even after decades of legislation enacted into law and much persuasive advocacy, individuals who are differently abled are still in need of access to information and materials available through libraries. Each chapter is a rich collection of reliable sources useful in understanding differences and perfect for fostering community engagement to address equity, diversity, and inclusion for the betterment of the community. Library staff in all library sizes and types—and faculty teaching pre-service librarians—should immediately make this book a primary professional development source. —Mirah J. Dow, PhD, Professor, Director of PhD Program, Emporia State University, School of Library and Information Management

Shouldn’t information be available to all who seek it? Barriers exist, but they can be removed, and access can be made more accessible. This timely and essential guide to understanding the importance of accessibility of libraries to differently abled patrons is a perfect primer for all those charged with curating, conserving, and sharing the world’s collective knowledge. —Cory C. Watson, President, Able SC Board of Directors

Dr. Copeland has provided much-needed perspectives and guidance for librarians striving to enable equitable access and inclusion within libraries and the communities they serve.—Valarie D. Byrd, Chair, Access South Carolina Information Technology Program

I am so happy to see more evidence in this book of what has always been my pleasure: to provide mirrors, windows and doors for differently abled as well as typically abled students and friends.—Vicky T. Clubertson, MLIS, Teacher/Librarian, Thornwell Charter School, Clinton, SC

As an LIS educator and DEI officer, I am constantly searching for credible, comprehensive, practical, and compassionate resources to further my own knowledge and equip others with tools to implement in their personal and professional lives; I struck gold with this book. With its emphasis on inclusion of people of all abilities, this is exactly the book the LIS profession needs at exactly the right time!—Renee F. Hill, PhD, Principal Lecturer, Diversity & Inclusion Officer, University of Maryland

As a wheelchair user with Cerebral Palsy, an MLIS graduate, and a health equity access consultant, I’m thrilled by this new book! In plain language, the contributors show the LIS community that—from library user to library employee—people with disabilities aren’t a scary “other;” we’re just humans who crave information as much as anyone else. This work shows LIS professionals how they can be most effective in the lives of people with disabilities.—Avery Olmstead, Health Equity Access Consultant

As a librarian and a parent of a child who is differently able, I know the struggles and frustrations of entering the library (physically or virtually) and not being able to access the information that is wanted and needed. The authors of this book have laid out workable plans for staying current with evolving challenges so that libraries remain relevant and accessible for all of our users!—Peggy L. Kaney, PhD, retired Assistant Dean of Libraries, Northeastern State University

As a cheerleader and advocate for the visually impaired and print disabled, Dr. Copeland exemplifies what it means to be our brother and sisters keeper. As a true pathfinder, she finds joy in guiding each user with rich job searching tools, while ensuring that all have access to resources galore. —Pamela Nash Davenport, Senior Network Consultant, National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled

An informative guide to constructing an environment that fosters diverse inclusivity.—Janice Surginer, Children Librarian, Multisensory Room Consultant

An essential volume offering specific guidance to help information professionals carry out their primary charge: to provide information access to everyone. These chapters include background and practical guidance for enabling practitioners to consider accessibility and universal design in every aspect of their practice, and they give LIS educators much-needed tools for integrating this training into their coursework. Readable and absolutely accessible, this powerful toolkit paves the way for making 21st century libraries what they should always have been: a place of welcome for all. —Michelle H. Martin, PhD, Beverly Cleary Professor for Children and Youth Services, University of Washington Information School

Dr. Copeland’s book is essential reading for information professionals who aim to craft accessible library spaces for empowering patrons and staff with differing abilities. For the accomplished scholars featured within, accessibility requires a transformative mindset rather than a checklist of actions. —Kevin J. Mallary, PhD, Assistant Professor, Library and Information Studies, Old Dominion University
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.
Accept All Cookies | Decline.