Government and Nonprofits

Feds single out library as international model for disabled patrons

April 11, 2016
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Kent District Library KDL Wyoming branch
The nearly 49,000-square-foot Wyoming library is the largest branch in the Kent District Library network. Courtesy KDL

Dignitaries from the Middle East and Africa will be at a local library this afternoon to learn about the laws and programs designed to improve access to public spaces and services for people with disabilities.

The Kent District Library, KDL, Wyoming branch, at 3350 Michael Ave. SW, will host international disability rights dignitaries from Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.

The dignitaries, some of whom have physical disabilities, will be touring the KDL Wyoming branch and meeting with staff to learn how the library has developed accessible spaces and programs for people with disabilities.

The visitors will meet with Grand Rapids-based Disability Advocates of Kent County in the morning and then be given a tour of the Wyoming library from 1-3 p.m.

The Wyoming branch was specifically recommended by the U.S. Department of State, said Heidi Nagel, KDL communications manager.

“It’s super exciting,” Nagel said. “We’re delighted, not only that we’re serving our own customers, but that it’s becoming a role model to serve other libraries as well.”

Nagel said there are two reasons why the Wyoming library stands out in terms of disability awareness.

“They heard about us through the Disability Advocates of Kent County, who recently awarded us (the) Community Champions Award,” Nagel said. “We heard about some challenges in the Grand Rapids area that people with disabilities were having. We contacted them and asked to do assessments to make sure we were operating accessibly.”

Nagel said the second reason is the Wyoming library serves as the regional provider for KDL’s Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped for residents in Kent, Ionia and Montcalm counties.

“Our Wyoming branch houses that program, which offers home delivery of digital material and spoken-word material, books and magazines,” Nagel said. “We also offer Braille materials that are mailed to people’s homes when they apply for that service.

“We have 1,038 patrons for the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped that we serve out of the Wyoming branch.”

The visit is part of an international professional development project created in partnership between the State Department and Colleagues International, a Kalamazoo-based nonprofit.

“We are so humbled to see this recognition for our accomplishments in serving the disabled community,” said Lance Werner, executive director, KDL.

“We have learned so much from our partners at Disability Advocates of Kent County and their assistance has helped us become the best library we can be for all members of our community.”

The State Department has outlined the following objectives:

  • Examine federal, state and local laws and programs intended to improve the quality of life for persons with disabilities, including the Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Explore government and private sector funding of services and programs for persons with disabilities
  • Discuss how various organizations, associations and non-government organizations influence policy and raise awareness of disability issues through advocacy, media and grassroots organizing
  • Provide professional networking opportunities that facilitate long-term dialogue among the visitors and their American counterparts

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