Accessible library services for people with disabilities : model for Korean libraries
Particularly the past two decades have witnessed the integration of people with disabilities into mainstream society. This is one of the top political issues in many countries. For a long time disabled people have been excluded from mainstream education, employment and various community activities on the grounds of individual disabilities. As a result many of them have been left unproductive and dependent. That society to some extent has a negative attitude towards disabled people cannot be disputed. Until recently all attention to disabled people had focussed on their physical wellbeing rather than on how to integrate them effectively into mainstream society. This negative attitude coupled with less integration has in many respects prevented disabled people from developing their potential and using their ability to live an independent life. In this respect library services for disabled people are regarded as part of the integration of disabled people into mainstream society. Especially public libraries can be seen as the most important institutes for the integration of disabled people into society. The purpose of this research is to identify current problems faced by mainstream libraries for the provision of library services for disabled people and also to present practical solutions that are appropriate to the Korean situation. Although the study covers other disabilities such as hearing and mobility impairment, it is mainly concerned with visual impairment. Visually impaired people are the most disadvantaged in libraries because they are unable to read printed materials.For purpose of data collection, the study relied on literature review, observation and interview. The study is organised into three parts. The first part outlines the background information about the integration of disabled people, the characteristics and difficulties of disabled people, and the development of library services for disabled people from earliest time to the present. The second part presents the findings of research in the areas of physical, technological and human factors. The last part proposes solutions to problems and draws conclusions. The emphasis throughout the study is to create awareness among library professionals in Korea about the need of library services for disabled people in mainstream libraries.