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Guelph's First Accessible Little Library

Accessible Little Library Opens at 197 Dufferin St

Over the past few years, Free Little Libraries have been appearing throughout Guelph. Now, a brand new initiative has been launched, prioritizing accessibility, inclusion, and community. The Accessible Little Library (ALL) made its debut on Monday morning outside the group home located at 197 Dufferin St. This project was spearheaded by People4People, a self-advocacy group for adults with developmental disabilities, in collaboration with Community Living Guelph Wellington, a non-profit organization that supports adults with developmental disabilities residing in the area.

To ensure accessibility, the library has been designed with careful consideration. It is built low to the ground, allowing individuals who use wheelchairs, walkers, or other mobility aids to easily reach the books. Additionally, a tether has been attached to the doorknob, enabling those with limited hand mobility to open the door effortlessly. However, accessibility goes beyond these features.

Karen Calzonetti from Community Living Guelph Wellington explains, “The library offers a diverse collection of books, including children’s books, picture books, books about people with disabilities, books featuring individuals with disabilities without solely focusing on their disability, and books for adults.” Furthermore, the library includes books authored by people with disabilities, sensory books, books on tape, and books with Braille. In essence, there is something available for individuals of all abilities.

Adjacent to the library stands a “buddy bench,” encouraging community members to sit, read, engage in conversations, and forge new friendships. Judy Noonan, a member of People4People, shares the motivation behind this addition, stating, “During COVID, we felt a loss of our community. Guelph Wellington Community Living collaborated with People Minded Business to brainstorm solutions that would foster stronger connections within our communities while maintaining the existing ones.”

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Initially, the idea of constructing a “buddy bench” was considered, but the team recognized that not everyone could comfortably use a bench, which would limit inclusivity. Subsequently, the notion of an accessible little library was proposed, leading to the ingenious combination of the two concepts. “From there,” Noonan elaborates, “it grew into an accessible little library built for the Guelph community. The project will continue to expand and adapt to become even more accessible as we learn from one another.”

Finding a suitable location took approximately a year, culminating in Terry Petrie graciously offering his property. Petrie, who constructed the group home for his son, believed it was a natural fit for the accessible library to be situated there. To further enhance accessibility, he laid down bricks in the boulevard area, facilitating smooth movement for individuals using wheelchairs and mobility devices.

While Community Living Guelph Wellington and People4People have intentions to establish additional libraries, the exact locations are yet to be determined.

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