Social Inclusion: Innovation Award

‘Fernando Gómez Martinez’ Public Library combats stigma against people living with disability in Colombia

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A  library trainee practises sign language with a librarian.
Maria Eugenia, right, practises sign language with a librarian.

the innovative service

“I love coming to the library because I am learning about the parts of the body – and I can use the internet for everything,” says Jon Fredy David Duarte, who has cognitive disabilities.

Jon Fredy is one of 78 people living with disability who regularly visit Public Library Fernando Gómez Martinez in Medellin, Colombia’s second largest city, to take advantage of the library’s free information and communication technology (ICT) training.

The training is part of the library’s ‘Other Ways to Read and Write’ service, which is open to people with all kinds of disability (visual, hearing, cognitive and physical) and to family members and carers. The library is working with people living with autism, Down’s Syndrome, dyslexia, hearing and visual impairments, and various physical disabilities.

People living with disability are included in all library services

In addition to providing free ICT access and training, the service offers workshops in Braille, sign language and speech therapy, reading, recreation and games. An important aim of the programme is to help people with disability to apply for jobs, and there are also classes in leatherwork and other crafts.Charly Hernandez with his mother at the library. “This library is Charly’s life – it is like a second home for him. It gives me peace of mind knowing he is in the library,” Charly's mother told librarians.

When it started in February 2011, the service had just one user. Word spread quickly in the community, and today 78 people with disability and 66 family members visit the library.

To combat stigma surrounding disability in the community, librarians encourage people with disability to take part in all other library programmes, including cultural events, story-time, reading clubs, computer awareness and family literacy.

Librarians train disabled users and their carers to operate computers using a multi-purpose disability kit donated by the Public Libraries Network of Medellin and the Metropolitan Region, an association of 29 libraries. The kit includes digital magnifiers, screen readers, computer Braille and adapted keyboards and mouse devices.

more library services contributing to digital inclusion

Read about more innovative public library services that contribute to digital inclusion in the community. PLIP-DIGITAL-INCLUSION

My sister has changed for the better as a result of the library programme.
Sister of Maria Eugenia, who has hearing and visual disabilities