Making Communication Two-Way: The Impact of Communication Access in Libraries

This lightning talk will showcase my journey providing Communication Access (CA) accreditation for libraries, a pilot program aimed at amplifying effective communication as a universal right and reaffirming the library as a sanctuary for everyone.

In pursuit of inspiring Victorian public libraries to prioritize accessibility for people with disabilities, the State Library Victoria’s Library Sector Engagement Team embarked on a journey funded by a grant from the Pierre Gorman Foundation. Fuelled by a commitment to enhance accessibility, we were granted funding to champion the rights of people with disabilities in Victoria’s public libraries.

The essence of communication accessibility lies in ensuring that every member of our community, regardless of their communication abilities, can confidently enter our libraries knowing they will be welcomed with open arms, treated with respect, and heard. It’s about fostering an environment where library staff and patrons alike engage in meaningful dialogue, regardless of communication barriers.

Through CA accreditation, we aim to establish clear guidelines, bridging the gap for those with communication disabilities. Statistics tell us that 1 in 7 Australians will face communication difficulties at some point in their lives. By becoming communication accessible, libraries not only ease access to goods and services but also elevate the overall customer experience, cultivating enduring patron loyalty. This lightning talk will explore the transformative potential of communication accessibility and its profound impact on our communities.

Acknowledging the importance of sustainability, we enlisted the expertise of a consulting company to craft a robust evaluation framework for our pilot program. Limited by budget constraints, we couldn’t immediately extend this initiative to all libraries. Instead, we aspired to showcase its value, inspiring councils to invest in its growth and continuation. The program’s comprehensive evaluation will generate a compelling report, strategically designed to serve as an advocacy tool for libraries.

This report will not only spotlight the project’s tangible outcomes but also illuminate the often overlooked intangible, yet invaluable, social impacts. Crucially, this endeavour is given credibility by an advisory board comprising individuals with lived experience and experts who have navigated successful pilot programs endorsed for ongoing funding by councils.

The conference presentation will provide a window into the outcomes of our pilot program, unveiling the initial report, and narrating the impactful stories of how CA accreditation has transformed library users and staff. As we embrace the theme of “Truth and Dare” at ALIA’s National 2024 Conference, join us on a journey that dares to push the boundaries of library services, reinforcing the universal right to effective communication. Together, we will uncover how Communication Access accreditation is changing the face of libraries in Victoria, one inclusive step at a time.

Emily Shumborski

Project Coordinator, State Library of Victoria

Author Bio

Emily works in the Library Sector Engagement team at the State Library of Victoria. In her role, she coordinates and delivers statewide development projects in partnership with Public Libraries Victoria. These projects invest significant resources in advocating for and supporting public libraries to meet the needs of their communities.