O2 Ability Award for Dublin Public Libraries and Archives

Dublin City Libraries and Archives Services were named winners of the Learning, Development and Progression Category at this year’s O2 Ability Awards and were shortlisted in the category of Customer Services. This is the second year that DCLA has entered the Awards and last year we were designated as an ‘ability organization’. The process of feedback from 2009 has allowed us to reflect on how we engage with disability and to improve our responses, leading to this year’s award.

The O2 Ability Awards were created by Kanchi, a social enterprise foundation committed to enhancing the relationship between people with disabilities and society, by recognizing organizations and business leaders that think differently about people with disabilities. The idea is to go beyond the legal minimum as laid down in the Disability Act 2005 and engage in a real and leading to a positive outcome. It’s important to remember that any of us might become disabled in the future, whether through accident, illness, sports injury or old age, bringing a realization – often sudden - that the world needs to be negotiated in a whole new way.

Technology assisted devices provided by Dublin City Public Libraries throughout the service  (including the Reading Room at Dublin City Library & Archive) include larger keyboards, magnifiers loop systems for hearing aids and software that converts text into audio files. Special programmes for staff are in place and include training in disability awareness; sign language; Braille printers; and training in providing services to people with mental health issues. The judges were very impressed with one particular initiative—the Bibliotherapy Project ‘Books Can Help’. Pioneered in Ireland by the DPL Divisional Librarian Human Resources, this is a partnership project with the Health Service Executive. Participating doctors suggest that patients with mild to moderate health issues should read particular books which can give them a fresh perspective. In the past two years, over 5,500 books have been borrowed as part of the project, which has now been adopted at national level.

O2 Ability Awards Trophy received by Dublin Public Libraries and Archives Service

Two specific contributions by Dublin City Archives were:

  •       Web-provision of North Strand Bombing oral history in audio and written formats, facilitating access equally to persons with sight or hearing ifficulties (Ellen Murphy)
  •       Provision of Dublin City Electoral Rolls database in large-print format in the Reading Room (Mary Clark)

We would encourage archives services to consider entering for the O2 Ability Awards. The assessment process is designed to be helpful and feedback is constructive. Although compliance with the 2005 Disability Act can be expensive (particularly when buildings have to be adapted) the financial input required to meet the higher standards of the Ability Awards is relatively modest, as it relates mainly to staff training and adaptive technologies. For more information, visit www.theabilityawards.com.

Mary Clarke

Dublin City Archivist



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