The excluded are the library patrons with disabilities. They are the disadvantaged group who are most of the time denied access to library services. They can only benefit maximally from the services of the public library if there is a conscious effort to include them. The disabled ones in this paper include the deaf and the dumb, visually impaired, physically and mentally challenged, etc. The public library has the mandate right from conception to serve both the able and disabled library patrons. The disabled ones are not intellectually disabled. They need information for growth and development. The public library, though afflicted with problems of funding, trained personnel, ICT facilities, can go a long way in transforming this group of people through its various services. The public library has the duty to meet their information needs thereby enhancing them to contribute their own quota in national development. This paper posits that the public library must think anew and fashion its products and environments in order to meet the information needs of the excluded patrons.
Public libraries all over the word strive to cater for the information needs of its citizens. This entails an enormous task and its ability to discharge this function justifies its existence. It provides unfettered access to information with its numerous resources and services to all and sundry. It does not discriminate against age, race and status. Its services cover the needs of the disabled users- the deaf, the dumb, the physically challenged, and the developmentally disabled persons. Eze (2012) noted that public library “has a unique feature of serving people at all level of education and socio-economic status as well as the disadvantaged and the handicapped in the society”. The public libraries are regarded as people’s university that provides long life education.
Johnson and Bonethi (2001) noted from the World Health Organization (1980) that “disability is any restriction or lack of ability to perform an activity in the manner or within range considered normal for a normal human being”. The disabled in this context are the deaf, the dumb, the mentally impaired people, and the physically challenged. This group of people cannot use the library resources like normal human being. They can only use library resources if they are provided in the formats they can understand. Some of them cannot have physical access to the libraries unless the architectural design of the library building has taken care of their situations.
The disabled library users are very often very poor and most of the times are confined in a place. (Genevieve 1978). The disabled people are often insulted and maltreated. They are looked upon as people with low mentality. For instance, Bervely (2003) noted that blind people have suffered from a variety of negative stereotypes and misconception. They have been thought as liabilities that cannot take care of themselves. They are people with information needs. Okoli (2011) remarked that the disabled people in this country are living daily in an environment that is hostile to their yearnings and aspirations. He believed that the society has unknowingly denied them all forms of integrations, be it social, economic or political. They have been cast aside as non-issues and subjected to a heavily tensioned psychological trauma which has rendered many of them hopeless. This should not be so for the disabled person is, first a young person, with the same needs as his peers (Leong and Higgins, 2012). They noted that their information needs do not differ greatly although the means they use to satisfy it differs.
Thomas and Thomas (1982) noted that “public libraries have long attempted to offer services tailored to the needs of special clienteles. He observed that at different point over the past one hundred years, service to groups such as children, the disabled and the minority have evolved. Genevieve (1978) remarked that “one segment of the public library’s vast untapped clientele to which we are now paying more attention is the disabled people”. Any appraisal of public library services that ignores the quality, quantity and formats of its collections and user satisfaction are to the less, self defeating. The real challenge in our information age is not producing or storing information but getting people to use information appropriately. Kharamin (2011) remarked that since the publication of the standard rues on the equalization of opportunity for persons with disability and the UNESCO public library manifesto, the awareness that information is a primary and fundamental right even for the disabled has grown considerably.
Public libraries must come out with a clear cut policy in order to integrate the disabled into the main stream of library services. There lies in the mandatory agenda of the public libraries. Public libraries are facing a new paradigm shift in its service to the disabled users. This is the only way to change the old orientation of public library services which were skewed favourably to non-disabled person.
Disability: Conceptual Framework
The term disability has been defined in many ways by different scholars. Allen and Hogan (2001) defined disability as “a restriction or lack of ability to perform an activity normally as a result of impact of a disease”. This approach sees disability as an affliction and postulates for medication as a cure. Countries that adopt this view always strengthen their health services. They plan to take care of the health of their aging population. They plan also for the well being of their citizens going into the labour market etc.
Johnson and Bonetti (2001) opined that disability can be conceptualized as activity limitations resulting from pathological and biomedical factors such as inflammation of the joint, brain lesion, age or sensory impairment. They use three models to explain disability. These models are medical model sociological model, and psychological model.
Albrecht (2001) opined that disability is defined by a person’s difficulty in performing a task due to an underlying physical or mental dysfunction. In my own opinion disabled people are people who need additional aids to function normally as a human being. Disabled people are often marginalized in the society. In some countries adequate care is given to the disabled population who constitutes a significant portion of it. Disability impacts heavily on the society. Apart from affecting the victim himself, his family members are also affected in one way or the other.
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