This week is Libraries Week, and we’re celebrating library professionals who are taking steps to make their libraries more inclusive.
Earlier this year, Guide Dogs, working with CILIP Scotland, trained 50 library professionals from across the UK in the basics of sighted guiding.
Kirsten MacQuarrie, Membership Officer at CILIP Scotland, helped organise the training, and attended herself. She said:
Just like Guide Dogs, Scotland's libraries are committed to breaking down barriers and making communities inclusive and accessible for all, which is why CILIPS were delighted to welcome the Guide Dogs team for a special Sighted Guiding for Library Professionals training session.
Thanks to Guide Dogs Community Development Officer Heather's friendly and informative approach, both myself and my library colleagues across Scotland gained invaluable insights into supporting library patrons living with sight loss in a practical, person-centred way. That knowledge has in turn been shared with fellow team members around the country, many of whom subsequently signed up for the training themselves, as we continue our collective efforts to make Scotland's libraries more inclusive for people with vision impairments.
Less than one week after our training, I met a woman with sight loss negotiating the train station alone with her cane. Inspired by our session, I asked if I could help, and because the station accessibility point was unstaffed, she welcomed the extra support. Amazingly enough, she was midway through the process of applying for a guide dog, so we had lots to chat about on our journey together! The experience highlighted even more for me how much public spaces must improve for people with sight loss, but thanks to our Guide Dogs training, I felt infinitely better equipped to offer practical, positive assistance. I know from CILIPS member feedback that many other training attendees have had similar experiences, already putting their training into practice.
To create the contemporary, compassionate society we all want to see, accessibility cannot be an afterthought, and library professionals are uniquely placed to set an example whilst working as we do at the beating hearts of our communities. I and the CILIPS community cannot recommend Guide Dogs Sighted Guide Training highly enough. Personally and professionally, your understanding and skillset will be enriched.
Guide Dogs is encouraging people who work in customer facing roles like libraries, as well as members of the public, to sign up to its Introduction to Sighted Guide Training, which is an hour-long online session and free for anyone aged 18 and over to join. We can also run free training for groups with our Community and Corporate Sighted Guide Training. Much like learning first aid, sighted guide training is a useful life skill to help create a more inclusive society for people with vision impairments.
Library professionals may also be interested to find out about our CustomEyes Books, of which libraries can become professional members. CustomEyes Books are large print books for children and young people aged 0-25 with a vision impairment or dyslexia.
Guide Dogs and the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds have teamed up with a new pilot project, aimed at improving the experience for visitors who have a vision impairment.