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Access for All

San Francisco Public Library

Problem Statement

San Francisco is a leader in providing ADA access in all of its buildings and services. However, there are significant challenges to making physical buildings accessible. With the rapid changes in information technology and service delivery methods, libraries must be certain that all barriers to making libraries accessible for patrons with disabilities are addressed.


SFPL has implemented a comprehensive Accessibility Initiative covering virtual and physical programs, services, and spaces:
Technology & Tools: Specialized adaptive software and assistive listening devices are available at the Main Library. Through a grant, an Accessibility Toolkit was assembled with a variety of assistive equipment. Other tools developed include: a daily facility checklist with an ADA Standard Path Measure tool; iPad 2s with cameras for Deaf Service Center patrons; and a download station at the Library for the Blind & Print Disabled for new digital offerings from the National Library for the Blind.
Service Delivery: Accessibility Liaisons have been established in each branch library and on each floor of the Main Library. Staff is partnering with the Center for Accessible Technology to improve website accessibility. Print materials in alternative formats are being circulated and Toolkit binders are located at each location. Main Library unique services include: the Deaf Services Center with ASL staff; the Library for the Blind & Print Disabled; a Learning Differences collection and staff; and ASL training for staff. In recognition of the above services and innovations, Marti Goddard, Access Services Manager, received the 2010 Mayor’s Disability Council Award for Excellence.
Buildings: Through its capital building program, SFPL has met all new ADA codes and used this opportunity to work with library vendors to design new furniture that enhances accessibility and created detailed specifications now used in other libraries. Comprehensive procedures for maintaining accessible features including signage, clear paths of travel, door pressure, etc. have been developed.


Specialized adaptive software and hardware is available on 6 public PCs and ZoomText on 6 additional PCs at the Main Library. Over the past year, more than 25,000 talking or digital books were checked out and over 1,600 patrons were helped over the phone or through email in the Library for the Blind, and the Deaf Services Center assisted over 5,500 individual patrons and special classes. Preliminary feedback shows that Toolkit users feel that the improved accessibility of library resources and buildings has enhanced their experience at the Library. Twenty of 27 branches have been renovated and re-opened with full ADA access and the remaining 7 branches will also be fully accessible.