Accessibility in library buildings and the needs of people with disabilities have become increasingly important issues for librarians over the last two decades. Many of Canada's libraries predate this move toward accessibility, however, which has caused many librarians to feel that they have to make hard choices between accessibility and the cost of renovating their buildings. But, as this paper will attempt to show, accessibility is as much a service philosophy as an architectural standard, and there are many ways libraries can become more accessible. After defining accessibility and disability, it will set out some of the ethical principles relating to building accessibility and patron services that have developed among librarians in the last 20 years. Focusing on library interiors (due to space constraints of the assignment), this paper will argue that awareness of accessibility has not only improved service to the disabled, but that it has also enhanced service to other library patrons without being a financial burden. It will then discuss some of the basic principles of accessible building designs and attempt to show how these principles can be put into practice, both during day-to-day operations and during regularly scheduled renovations. Finally, it will briefly discuss the circumstances under which a library must meet legal requirements for accessibility. This paper will not attempt to list all the measurements and dimensions a library must meet in order to be compliant with accessibility legislation. Those figures are already readily available elsewhere, and it would be a pointless redundancy to reproduce them here. Instead, it is hoped this paper will emphasize the human factor in making libraries accessible to all users.
Part 2: Accessibility Defined