Accessibility has come a long way in the ten years Daniel Miguez de Luca has worked for the Westmount Public Library in Montreal, QC. And ensuring accessibility is now one of his primary considerations in his job as Westmount’s Programming and Outreach Librarian, where he spends significant time running events and programs for adults. “It’s always my goal to make our programming as accessible and welcoming as possible for our community,” says Miguez de Luca.
Westmount Public Library Accessibility Services
In addition to home deliveries and accessible items in the collection like e-audiobooks and eBooks, Westmount also has an impressive large print collection that includes books tailored for people with dementia, which have a different font and layout to make for easier reading. The online services team and communications teams have also been working to improve accessibility for the library’s website and social media to make information easier to find and understand.
In the children’s department, many initiatives have taken place over the years to create accessible programming for kids. For example, the department has hosted a program with therapy dogs that was created to encourage kids who struggle with reading, and has also offered story times for autistic children. The children’s collection also includes books for kids with dyslexia, and Wonderbooks with a built-in audiobook for reading along.
Accessible Library Programs
But Miguez de Luca’s first love is finding ways to welcome people to the library and encourage them to feel comfortable in the space. A program with therapy dogs was created to encourage kids who struggle with reading. And one of Miguez de Luca’s favourite programs is a collaboration with the Alzheimer Society of Montreal. The program, “Tales and Travels,” meets once a week at the library for two hours of fun and socialization.
Each session revolves around a different country as the main theme. Patrons break into small discussion groups, each with a facilitator. Large 11×17 photos of the chosen country are set out on the tables with interesting and engaging facts printed on the back. Tactile elements, like a model of the Eiffel Tower, are also added to the table. Books about the country are gathered from the children’s department. With clear language and a larger font, these books make a wonderfully accessible tool for the group facilitators to use to prompt conversation.
“Using different countries is an excellent conversation opener as many of the participants have travelled either recreationally or for work,” says Miguez de Luca. “It’s a good chance to go back to fond memories or familiar topics.”
The goal of the program is to stimulate discussion. Facilitators are flexible and generous with the participants, and off-topic conversations are encouraged. The idea is to get people talking and socializing and making those connections. It’s an environment where there is no judgment for people with neurocognitive impairments. Observers from the Alzheimer Society of Montreal said it was like conversation therapy for the patron.
For the program’s second half, the group enjoys videos and refreshments related to the country. Miguez de Luca encourages caregivers to participate and share special moments with their loved ones. The refurbished programming room with a beautiful fireplace and warm wood floors adds to the cozy atmosphere and seems to make people feel comfortable. “This is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done in my career, it is truly life changing work,” says Miguez de Luca.
Looking forward, the Westmount Public Library team is planning ways to make spaces more accessible for patrons with hearing aids and to offer story times for children with autism. The library is also building the capacity to live stream all events the library puts on, allowing those who cannot come to the event to enjoy it from home.
Thanks to the work of Miguez de Luca and the rest of the team at Westmount, the library is working to provide a safe and welcoming space for patrons that allows people to feel at home while in the library. If your library is interested in connecting and sharing ideas, please contact Daniel Miguez de Luca at email@example.com.