Friday, January 08, 2016

Inclusive Programming for Adults with Developmental Disorders

Contra Costa Library has an Inclusive Library Plan which consists of

*Accessible Library Products and Services (Products included Assistive Technology and the collection) and services are inclusive public programs and outreach.)

*Library Insiders Program-monthly programs for adults with developmental disabilities

*Summer Reading (all ages/abilities)

People of all abilities can participate in library services and activities. Bringing people and ideas together: Improving access for people with disabilities means improved access for all. This is done through their accessibility committee. They provide training for staff and discuss accessibility concerns and issues, working to make sure the library is ADA compliant.

What is Inclusion: Importance of Attitude of Staff:
  • Encourage people of all abilities to feel comfortable and confident using the library.
  • Staff work to present programs that provide a variety of opportunities for learning for everyone.

Equality doesn’t mean justice. “Sometimes equality means treating people the same despite their differences. Sometimes it means treating them as equal by accommodating their differences.” (Rosalie Silberman Abella-Canadian Supreme Court Justice)

It requires creativity thinking and flexibility to work to make all feel welcome. Contra Costa County Library started a program for adults with developmental disabilities because they saw adults from group living homes coming into the library unsure of how to engage in the library. They began with tours and instruction on how to use the library and expanded to a variety of opportunities to learn from community experts on a variety of topics.This program came to be called the Insiders Program because participants talked about how they felt they had moved from being an “outsider” at the library to being an “insider”, someone who belonged. CCC Library defines a library insider as someone who feels at ease navigating the library, who approaches the desk with a question or comment, and who uses resources and/or attends programs as a library user. Libraries have an opportunity and a responsibility to provide opportunities for people with developmental disabilities to help them not feel intimidated by using the library but to feel that they belong and can participate along with everyone else.

How to Get Started with Inclusive Services for Adults

*Do you have community-based groups visiting your library? If so introduce yourself to groups or individuals already in your library and see how can be of service. Is there a desire to learn more about and interact more with the library? How can you connect? Remember that Saint Paul Public Library is becoming a Next Chapter Book Club affiliate and there is an upcoming training if you would like to be trained as a facilitator or be able to train a volunteer to be a facilitator (get your supervisor’s permission to attend the training).

*Call local city/county adult community based organizations (Arc Greater Twin Cities, Lifeworks, group homes, Adaptive Recreation, Community Education programs for Adults with Special Needs , etc.) to see whether would like a library tour.

Types of Programs:

Noelle and Gina recommend that in terms of programming you do what works for your library on whatever level you can. In some cases, this could be providing a space for an activity/meeting that is being overseen by an outside group or if possible providing a space for a visiting group to take a break, eat a snack, etc.

*Offer programs that encourage adults with developmental disabilities to feel comfortable and confident using all resources in the public library. Contra Costa County Library found that after they offered adults from a day program a tour and scavenger hunt which showed them how to use the library, that the groups coming in were more engaged and would greet staff, interact, and use library resources.

-Behind the Scenes Library Tour (Show the library, all the types of materials available, how check in /out, introduce to as many staff as can)

-Scavenger hunt (explore the library, learn how to find different types of materials. One part of the scavenger hunt is going to one of the service desks and having staff tell a joke. CCC Library prepared staff ahead of time so knew about hunt, what questions were, had a list of jokes they could tell. Click here for handouts.)

-Special Library Resources: show special collections, tell about any museum passes or other programs that might be of interest, may want to build a collection with materials on life skills for this audience.

-Library technology and computer tutorials: In 2013 CCC Library received a grant to purchase iPads and they installed apps geared towards developing life skills. The apps were geared towards adults (some teen-related) and covered the areas of career skills, money, reading skills that they found through the Attainment Company and also free art apps for drawing or creative projects. They have 10 iPads that they use during group activities and can share for use with other library programs. You can e-mail Noelle Burch ( to get a list of the apps they purchased.

-Summer Reading Records (click here for handouts)-Created Summer Reading Records for an Adult Summer Reading program with activities that could be done by all including: visit the library, ask a librarian a question, listen to music or books, read or spend time with a book or magazine, watch a movie, write or draw a picture about your summer. Allow participants to review a book or activity to be entered for prizes.

-Volunteering: Volunteering benefits the library and helps individuals develop career and life skills. It can be done through group or individual volunteering and it is a basic way to begin creating an inclusive environment.

*Programs that provide a variety of opportunities for lifelong learning

Partners: Agencies and presenters could include police and fire departments, city parks and recreation department, local rangers, nonprofit organizations, local businesses, friends and library foundation. CCC Library was able to get mostly free programs for their Insiders group by working with community partners.

Topics could include:
-Safety and Health
Types of programs CCC Library has done include:

*Fire Safety: The Fire Department did a program on cooking safety and the library purchased oven mitts to give out.

*Personal Safety: The Police Department presented this program. This is a very important topic to help people learn about stranger danger, being taken advantage of, who is safe to interact with.

*Doctors from the local hospital visited and presented advice on health, safety, how to know when you are sick.

*American Heart Association presented on health, safety, and how to know when you are sick.

*Reading Therapy Dogs and Guide Dogs for the Blind-Therapy dogs were brought in that the Insiders group could talk to, pet, read with.

*Local Businesses (Yoga, Nutritionists, etc.) The Insiders group loves learning about new topics and getting information.

-Local Environment (can reach out to non-profits)
*Park Rangers
*Local Wildlife Rehabilitation Organizations
*Drought Awareness
*Lapidary Society

-Creativity and Expression
*Music and Dance: local musicians, dance parties, karaoke, library inclusive music kit (purchased drums, various instruments that could also be used for other programs)

*Crafting and Art: collages, beading (think about motor skills and may want to purchase bigger beads, larger strings for greater ease, coloring (did whole hour of coloring and it was very popular), water coloring (offered this through Parks and Rec).

-Career Development

*Could invite Goodwill Easter Seals or another organization, local HR department (from college or business) to talk about resumes, employment skills

*Host career fair in person or virtual

*Could ask professionals or volunteers in to help with informational interviews/practice interviews

*Could design classes on soft skills and use some ideas from Skills to Pay the Bills

-Current holidays and events

*Veterans Day: CCL Library’s Insider’s Group talked about wars and veterans and wrote thank-you cards to veterans which they gave to a local National Guard unit to deliver to veterans and they were invited to tour the National Guard unit to see its resources.

*Martin Luther King Jr. Day: The Insiders talked about civil rights, listened to the "I Have a Dream" speech and had a chance to write or draw about a dream and ended up having a discussion of their civil rights.

*Valentine’s Day: The Insiders made Valentines for friends and each other.

*Holiday Season (making gifts): Insiders made simple crafts and ornaments and had help making gifts for friends.

What kind of programs could you offer?

*Maybe contact Parks and Rec, DNR?
*Contact local businesses to see what topics could talk about
*Contact banks to see if could talk about money skills, management, saving, etc.
*Universities, League of Women Voters

Frequency of Programs and Scheduling:

*When working with local adult organizations it is helpful to determine a set schedule for programs and to share this schedule with your partner groups.

*Most programs meet on a monthly or bi-weekly basis. CCC Library found that early afternoon is the most popular time for their programs.

*Programs are publically promoted. CCC Library publicizes their Insiders and other events as “all are welcome to attend and that programs are geared towards adults with developmental disabilities.” Sometimes have multi age and multi-ability, but mostly members of the Insiders group attend.

*When arrange for presenters, let them know that the audience will be mostly adults with developmental disabilities and have found all their presenters to be friendly and able to accommodate needs, modify presentation. For the therapy dog session, CCC Library requested very friendly dogs for the program to help with participants who may feel shy around animals.

Staff Cooperation:

*Communication: Explain the importance of including everyone, share program feedback, foster introductions and relationships with staff and Insiders, get everyone involved.

*Once CCC Library staff got project started, staff were very welcoming.  Most difficult change was changing srp program reading record, but were able to convince staff that this allowed them to offer library services and literacy to more people.

Nothing About Us Without Us:
*Programs at CCC Library wouldn’t be possible without constant feedback from their participants. They always seek opinions and get honest, friendly feedback. Some programs will end up being more popular than others.

*Insiders presented alongside CCC Librarians on a panel about programming for adults with developmental disabilities. Participants were able to take part and give feedback.


*Participants report that they use the library more, feel comfortable asking questions of library staff, and are now attending a variety of library programs.

*Library Insiders gain independent public skills and are equipped to navigate most public library resources/services.

*Staff appreciate the kindness and positive interactions received from Library Insiders.


Erin Zolotukhin-Ridgway, George Latimer Central (

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