Public Library Accessibility Working Group

Public Library Accessibility Working Group (PLAWG)

Note that this page will continue to be updated with new information on coming into compliance with the Accessible BC Act.

The Public Library Accessibility Working Group (PLAWG) is committed to keeping you updated and alerting you to when it is time to start working on new stages. The PLAWG is working with the Disability Alliance of BC and will be sharing out resources and information from them as it is being made available. PLAWG members: Kevin Millsip, Cari Lynn Gawletz, Rina Hadziev, Michael Burris

If you have any questions about PLAWG or our work, please contact kevin.millsip@bc.libraries.coop

Where to start

There are 3 things that prescribed organisations need to have in place by September 1, 2023, in order to be in compliance with the act.

  1. Establish an Accessibility Committee
  2. Develop an accessibility plan
  3. Create a feedback mechanism 

There are several strategies an organization could use to come into compliance with the Act, including:

  • Organizations that have an existing accessibility committee, plan or public feedback mechanism may use them,
  • Organizations may adapt an existing plan (such as a diversity and inclusion plan), committee, or feedback mechanism; or,
  • Two or more organizations could work together to develop an accessibility plan, committee, or public feedback mechanism jointly.

Establishing an Accessibility Committee

Link to notes from the BC Accessibility Hub 

DABC is asking committee’s to register on their website once established, link here:

Libraries can begin work now, on establishing an accessibility committee. There is flexibility on how a committee can be organized. For example, a library could create a stand-alone accessibility committee specifically for itself as a library or library system. A library could be part of a broader accessibility committee being put together by your local government. Two or more libraries who are close in proximity or in the same region, could come together to form a joint accessibility committee for the libraries involved. 

You may have an existing committee that it would make sense to add the accessibility work to. For example, if you already have a committee that encompasses accessibility then that group can take on this work. You may have an EDI committee in place and it may make sense to add the accessibility planning work to that committee, and so on. 

Accessibility Committees are expected at the system level – not for individual library branches, though the ultimate accessibility plan should incorporate the needs of individual branches.

Committees can be made up of more than 1 Prescribed Organization – for example, a library could be part of a committee made up of a municipality, the library, and the municipal police OR two or more libraries in the same area might want to have a shared committee. Regional library systems may want to have one committee for their entire regional system.

The decision about how to structure a committee is up to you and or your local government. The province will not be directing libraries on whether or not to have a stand-alone committee for your library system, a shared committee with your local government or a shared committee amongst a number of libraries – that decision is to be made at the library level.

In terms of a committee’s composition, keep in mind that the Act asks:

  • At least half of the members of an accessibility committee should identify as having a disability or represent an organization that serves people with disabilities
  • At least 1 person representing Indigenous people

Organizations have different capacities, priorities, and requirements, so committees also need to be tailored to meet the organization’s context.

Other committee considerations

  • It starts with finding the right people for the committee.
  • Recruiting people with disabilities in the community that can provide the best accessibility and inclusion advice for their Prescribed Organization.
  • Understanding that there may be a limited number of people with disabilities to sit on a committee, remembering that at least 50% of committee members should have a disability, and that there may be other Prescribed Organizations in a given geographical region also vying for the same volunteers.
  • Balancing the supply of potential skilled volunteers and demands the final committee may have on them, to address specific accessibility and inclusion challenges.
  • Knowing that there may be additional supports at the provincial level to fill in gaps.

 

Developing an accessibility plan

Link to notes from the BC Accessiblity Hub

Once you have your Accessibility Committee in place, the committee can begin work on its plan. Template accessibility plans are being shared out on the BC accessibility Hub website. Organizations can use these template if they wish, to build out their own accessibility plans. 

In broad strokes, an accessibility plan will outline the organization will:

  • Identify
  • Remove
  • Prevent barriers to people in the organization or interacting with it. 
  • The plan must be reviewed and updated at least once every three years

In developing or updating a plan, an organization must consult with its accessibility committee and consider specified principles (inclusion, adaptability, diversity, collaboration, self-determination, and universal design). 

In updating their plan, an organization must also consider comments received through its public feedback mechanism. Organizations are not required to submit accessibility plans to government. However, organizations must make their accessibility plan available to the public, for example by publishing it on their website.

Organizations will set their own targets for accessibility in their accessibility plans and are encouraged to set manageable targets that can be progressively realized over time

Next steps

A template for terms of reference for an advisory group and a disability plan is being developed by the Disability Alliance of BC (DABC). It will be co-created by representatives from the different sectors identified by the Act, as well as people with disabilities. Cari Lynn Gawletz will be participating for the library sector. 

We will share the templates as soon as they are available, expected in November 2022. 

Some other links

The Public Library Accessibility Work Group (PLAWG) was formed in 2022, to support the sector in the implementation of the Accessible BC Act.

DisabilityInclusion.ca – a free, confidential assessment of how accessible your workplace is. This is an evidence-based tool capturing the 35 most promising practices. Takes as little as 15 minutes to complete, and generates a customized report with recommendations. This could be a key action in your accessibility plan.

Ensure you and your staff have a foundation: review the resources in Accessibility 101 for Public Libraries.

For more information on PLAWG, please see this link to our terms of reference.

If you have any questions about PLAWG or our work, please contact kevin.millsip@bc.libraries.coop