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Accessible Library Programming Examples

    Creator: Accessible Libraries

    Date Updated: March 22, 2024


    A wide variety of accessible programs can be found at libraries worldwide. Learning about these programs is a great way to discover how libraries are attempting to meet specific accessibility needs. Additionally, it is a great way to look for inspiration for developing new accessible programming at your library!

    This resource contains examples of some of the accessible programming found in libraries in North America. Programs are listed under headings for the accessibility need they are designed to meet and a separate heading for promoting awareness. Programs are briefly described and contain relevant links.

    Table of Contents

    1. Programs for Persons with Sensory Processing Disorder
      1. Sensory Kits and Backpacks
      2. Sensory Environments
      3. Sensory Storytime and Play
    2. Physical Access and Mobility Programs
      1. Homebound Services Programs
      2. Over-the-phone Storytime
    3. Programs for Persons with Print Disabilities
      1. Learning Braille and Braille Study Groups
      2. Tactile Literacy and Workshops
      3. Audiobook Book Clubs
    4. Programs for Persons who are Deaf
      1. American Sign Language (ASL) Storytime
      2. Teaching American Sign Language (ASL) and Deaf History
    5. Programs for Persons with Dementia
      1. Tales and Travel Memories Program
      2. Cognitive Care Kits
      3. Preventive Programming
    6. Assistive Technology Programs
      1. Workshops
    7. Acceptance and Awareness
      1. Autism Acceptance Month
      2. Deaf History Month
      3. International Day of People with Disabilities
    8. References

    Programs for Persons with Sensory Processing Disorder

    Libraries across Canada and the United States have programs for persons with sensory processing disorders.

    Sensory Kits and Backpacks

    Persons with sensory processing disorder can have difficulty processing information from the senses. Although it is not present in all cases, sensory processing disorder can be associated with a variety of conditions, such as autism spectrum disorder and ADHD.

    Sensory kits and backpacks are designed to help persons with sensory processing disorders self-regulate by providing tools for refocusing and changing the level of sensory input.

    Some libraries provide access to sensory kits through partnerships with charities and other external organizations. For example, Calgary Public Library partners with Variety (the Children’s Charity) and Calgary Heritage Lions Club to provide sensory backpacks at some locations.

    AIDE Canada and Aspire Richmond developed Richmond Public Library’s sensory kits. They provide an explanatory list of their kits’ contents:

    • Weighted materials, deep-pressure massage balls, and sensory minimization tools (such as body socks, noise-cancelling headphones, and sunglasses) to support customers experiencing sensory overload.
    • Fidget items are an outlet for anxiety or offer tactile stimulation.
    • Communication cards and LCD writing tablets are available for nonverbal customers.
    • Visual timers to support transitions from one activity to another.
    • Workbooks to help customers work through their own sensory needs.”

    Other examples of sensory kit programs are listed below:

    Sensory Environments

    Multi-sensory environments are rooms where you can control aspects of the environment that influence light, sound, touch, and sometimes smell. Research shows that multi-sensory environments can benefit persons with sensory processing disorder in several ways, such as reducing sensory behaviours and improving attention among autistic children (Unwin et al., 2022).

    • Durham County Library’s main library has a specialized multi-sensory environment space for people with sensory disorders. The room can be reserved in 30-minute increments.
    • Durham County Library also has a separate sensory calming room that functions as a quiet respite away from the rest of the library and is open access during library hours.

    Sensory Storytime and Play

    Traditional storytelling environments can be challenging for children with sensory processing disorders. Sensory storytime programs are designed to be more welcoming for children with sensory processing disorders, developmental disabilities, and other conditions. Sensory storytime sessions can include a slower pace of storytelling, quiet areas where children can get away from other children, access to relaxing toys, areas where they can use fidget toys if they cannot sit, and other approaches.

    Examples of sensory storytime programming are listed below:

    Physical Access and Mobility Programs

    Homebound services allow persons without physical access to the library to access library services.

    Homebound Services Programs

    Calgary Public Library provides book selection, delivery, and exchange services for persons unable to visit the library due to mobility issues or health. They have also established rotating mini libraries that visit care centres, lodges, and seniors’ residences (link to Calgary Public Library’s special-services webpage).

    Examples of home service programs developed by other libraries:

    Over-the-phone Storytime

    Like online library programming, over-the-phone storytime enables patrons without physical access to the library to participate in events. Unlike online programming, over-the-phone storytelling is accessible to participants with little or no computer knowledge or access.

    Okanagan Regional Library hosts adult storytime sessions over the phone once a month and weekly over-the-phone discussion meetings. Participants are given the conference line number and access code in advance.

    Programs for Persons with Print Disabilities

    Libraries across Canada and the United States have programs for persons with print disabilities.

    Learning Braille and Braille Study Groups

    The Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library hosts in-person and online braille study groups. They also offer early braille and tactile learning kits.

    Tactile Literacy and Workshops

    Tactile graphics are images with raised surfaces that convey meaning through touch. They are an excellent way to communicate or learn spatial information nonvisually.

    Through its Dimensions lab, The Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library provides patrons free access to hardware, software, and workshops where they can learn best practices of tactile design.

    Audiobook Book Clubs

    Audiobook book clubs offer all of the social connections and discussions found in print book clubs but with the added benefit of focusing on books that are available in an accessible format. Examples of audiobook book clubs hosted or organized by libraries are listed below:

    Programs for Persons who are Deaf

    Libraries across Canada and the United States have programs for persons who are Deaf.

    American Sign Language (ASL) Storytime

    Some libraries work with ASL storytellers to host American Sign Language storytime events, sometimes with two storytellers simultaneously telling the story in ASL and English.

    When choosing books for their Family Storytime in Sign Language and English events, Burnaby Public Library selects “books with short text and big, clear pictures, and without aural rhymes or wordplay or jokes that rely on hearing the words.” They also recommend avoiding books that rely heavily on sound words. A list of over sixty children’s books they have used in their ASL storytime events can be found on the Burnaby Public Library’s webpage on books for ASL storytime.

    Other examples of ASL storytime programming are listed below:

    Teaching American Sign Language (ASL) and Deaf History

    Libraries can partner with ASL teachers to host ASL learning events. To make these events even more meaningful, the Dallas Public Library has incorporated Deaf history, awareness, and culture into its ASL lessons. Read more about the Dallas Public Library’s inclusive programming for the Deaf community here.

    Programs for Persons with Dementia

    Libraries across Canada and the United States have programs for persons with Dementia.

    Tales and Travel Memories Program

    Some libraries create programs to help persons with dementia engage with their memories and interests. Mary Beth Riedner and staff and volunteers from the Gail Borden Public Library District developed the Tales and Travel program in Illinois. The program simulates travelling to a foreign country through stories, videos, music, images, books, and other objects. Engaging with these materials can help to stimulate participants’ memories and spark conversation.

    While the Tales and Travel Memories program was developed in the United States, it has also been adapted for Canadian libraries. The Westmount Public Library runs regular weekly sessions of a Tales and Travel Memories Program, including a snack based on the week’s theme.

    Cognitive Care Kits

    Cognitive care kits are designed to support the skills and abilities of people with varying stages of dementia. Some libraries partner with local organizations, such as Alzheimer’s societies, to provide cognitive care kits and other forms of dementia programming.

    Items sometimes found in cognitive care kits include Alzheimer’s information sheets, XXL-piece puzzles, brain exercises, activity books, readers, chair yoga books, and colouring books. For more information on creating care kits, see this blog post: How to.

    Examples of cognitive care kit programs:

    Preventive Programming

    Some libraries offer programs designed to help reduce the risk factors for dementia before it develops. As with other areas of dementia care, partnering with outside organizations with developed expertise is beneficial.

    Examples of preventive programs:

    Assistive Technology Programs

    Libraries across Canada and the United States have programs that teach how to use assistive technologies.


    In addition to using and providing access to various forms of assistive technology, some libraries offer workshops to help patrons learn about new types of assistive technology. For example:

    Acceptance and Awareness

    Libraries across Canada and the USA celebrate and promote awareness days with different programming.

    Autism Acceptance Month

    Autism Acceptance Month is celebrated every April. Brooklynn Public Library celebrates Autism acceptance with programming, including a reading list.

    Deaf History Month

    Deaf History Month is celebrated every April. Libraries can take part in a variety of ways. Dallas Public Library puts on programs for different age groups. In 2022, some of these included:

    • This is an elementary-aged storytime for the book The William Hoy Story by Nancy Churnin. William Hoy was a Deaf baseball player who broke a number of records. This event included a visit from guest speaker Steve Sandy, a Deaf man from Ohio who owns a lot of William Hoy memorabilia.
    • Creating an interactive quiz for teens about Hellen Keller was done in part to combat misinformation that had spread through a viral conspiracy theory about her on TikTok.

    International Day of People with Disabilities

    The International Day of People with Disabilities was introduced by the United Nations in 1992 and is celebrated each year on December 3rd. It aims to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities and raise awareness.

    Libraries can participate by honouring this day in several ways, for example:


    Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library. (2024). Andrew Heiskell Library’s Book Discussion Group.

    Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library. (2024c). Main page.

    Arata, H. (2022, August 4). Celebrating Deaf Culture and History: Programs for Inclusion and Education.

    BeyondBooks. (2023, July 24). Memory Kits: Borrow and Explore. Halifax Public Libraries.

    Brooklynn Public Library. (2023, April). Autism Acceptance book list.

    Burlington Public Library. (2023, February 27). Sensory Kits Now Available in Branches.

    Burlington Public Library. (2024, January 2). Your Dementia-Friendly Library.

    BurnabyKidsStaffPics & Burnaby Public Library. (2024). Books for ASL-English Storytimes.

    Calgary Public Library. (2024). Accessibility: Special Services.

    CBC News. (2022, August 29). More sensory storytimes are coming to London libraries this fall. CBC News.

    Durham County Library. (2024a). Multi Sensory Environment.

    Durham County Library. (2024b). Older adult and shut-in service (OASIS).

    Durham County Library. (2024c). Sensory Calming Room.  

    Edmonton Public Library. (2024). Home Delivery.

    Fleet, C. (2018, October 17). Announcing Dimensions: Community Tools for Creating Tactile Graphics & Objects. New York Public Library.

    Halifax Public Libraries. (2024a). Accessibility.  

    Halifax Public Libraries. (2024b). Building Assistive Technology Drop-in.

    Halifax Public Libraries. (2023). Workshop: Prevention of Dementia and Cognitive Decline.

    New York Public Library. (2024). For Patrons with Physical Disabilities.

    North Vancouver City Library. (2024). American Sign Language Family Storytime.

    Okanagan Regional Library. (2024). Library Accessibility Services.

    Port Moody Public Library. (2024). Accessible Services.

    RDPL_AdultFiction, & Red Deer Public Library. (2024). International Day for Persons with Disabilities. Red Deer Public Library.  

    Richmond Public Library. (2024). Sensory Kits. Richmond Public Library: Sensory Kits.

    Rothstein, J. (2023, March 7). Upcoming: NYPL’s Accessible Technology Conference 2023. New York Public Library.

    St. Albert Public Library. (2024). Sensory Storytime with Transitions.

    Tales and Travels. (2022). About Tales and Travels Memories.

    Toronto Public Library. (2024). Audiobooks.

    Unwin, K. L., Powell, G., & Jones, C. R. G. (2022). The Use of Multi-Sensory Environments with Autistic Children: Exploring the Effect of Having Control of Sensory Changes. Autism: The International Journal of Research and Practice, 26(6), 1379–1394.

    Vancouver Public Library Foundation. (2024, January 12). Sensory Storytimes.

    Westmount Public Library. (2024). Tales & Travels Series.