After a year of planning, Advancing Independence Network, Akron-Summit County Public Library, ArtsNow, Direction Home Akron Canton and Summit DD announced the launch of the Accessibility Library – a resource center dedicated to enhancing accessibility at festivals, performances, community gatherings and cultural shows at no cost to users.
This project is rooted in the Akron/Summit Cultural Plan, which states, “In Akron/Summit, we believe that access to our city’s arts, cultural, and environmental spaces are integral to the health and future of our community – and together, we must work towards intentional inclusion. We must advance efforts that maximize access to cultural experiences so all Akron residents and visitors feel like valued guests and welcomed creators of art and culture.”
The idea was brought to life by artist and advocate for artists with disabilities, Alicia Hopkins, founder of Arts Speaks, Audacity to Advocate.
“As a disabled artist, I found that arts in Akron weren’t accessible and I wanted to change that,” said Hopkins. “I knew that with the help of an accessibility library, events could be inclusive and accessible in a way that opens doors … for people with disabilities and older adults to engage in the arts in all avenues.”
On its website, hosted by the Akron-Summit County Public Library, the Accessibility Library offers an extensive range of assistive technology and support items that event organizers can borrow to ensure inclusivity and engagement for all attendees.
Items available for checkout include:
- Sensory travel kits
- Chair cushions and frames
- Table easels
- Noise-reduction headphones
- Tour guide voice audio transmission systems
- Wireless microphone systems
- 10-person portable translation/tour guide systems
- Portable signage systems to identify accessible parking, entrances and restrooms
- Portable pop-up sensory spaces
- Audio description devices
In addition to physical items, the Accessibility Library provides planning guides for indoor and outdoor events, site and venue accessibility assessments, support videos for creating and using assistive gear, and a comprehensive catalog of available resources.
“The Accessibility Library represents a notable step forward in fostering inclusivity at events throughout Summit County,” said Michelle Alleman, deputy director at Akron-Summit County Public Library. “The resources being brought together by our five organizations will collectively encourage participation in cultural events by individuals with disabilities throughout our community.”
Additionally, the partners have created Sensory Guides as part of the library collection. These guides identify sensory stimuli that visitors are expected to experience during their visit, such as the level of sound, light, smell, touch and the presence of sudden noises/flashing lights at festivals, performances, community gatherings and shows.
“Summit DD envisions a community where people of all abilities feel included,” said Drew Williams, assistant superintendent of Summit DD. “With the launch of the Accessibility Library, there is now a community-based resource to support organizations who are committed to serving people of all abilities.”
For more information, visit akronlibrary.org/accessibility-library. ∞