Disability Equality Scheme


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1.   Introduction

This document is the Disability Equality Scheme for the National Library of Scotland (NLS). It is based on discussions we have had with disabled people and other interested parties and takes account of their feedback.

We are required to produce a Disability Equality Scheme ('the Scheme'), no later than December 2006 in order to meet the requirements of the 2005 Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). The purpose of the scheme is to promote equality of opportunity for disabled people. We take a broad view of 'disability' allowing people to define the meaning of disability for themselves.

This document does not list everything we do to make the Library accessible to disabled people. In accordance with the Library's overall Equalities Policy (see corporate documents page), the Library is committed to ensuring that fair and equal treatment for all is 'mainstreamed' in all our work planning. All our staff have an obligation to ensure that services are planned and delivered in a way that does not disadvantage any section of the community. Under the DDA, we also have a statutory obligation to make 'reasonable adjustments' to meet disabled people's needs.

NLS aims to meet our statutory obligations in a way that is efficient, effective and user-friendly. We have tried to make this document as straightforward, short and easy-to-read as possible, so that it is accessible and meaningful to the public. NLS may also need to prepare other documents on how we plan to ensure that fair and equal treatment is provided for all, such as social groups based on gender, race or age, for example. We intend to adopt a similar approach which is effective in meeting our obligations, but does not require excessive paperwork or bureaucracy.

2.   Involvement of disabled people

We have involved disabled people in producing this document, including:

  • discussions with disabled people over what the Library's priorities for meeting the needs of disabled people should be; and
  • consulting with disability interests over the draft Scheme itself.

We involved a number of NLS staff members who have a disability in this process. An online questionnaire (with printed copies also available), asked all our staff - especially, but not exclusively those with disabilities - about any issues or problems they have with the NLS as an employer, or any suggestions for improvements. Staff responded anonymously, and could meet with a named person to discuss these issues. Of the 113 people who responded (37% of all staff), 21% said that they felt they might meet the DDA criteria for having a disability, although just under 5% of the respondents considered themselves to be 'a disabled person'.

We received 27 comments and suggestions from staff, half of whom drew attention to access problems in our buildings. Other frequently-cited comments related to staff training and awareness, communications and signage.

We were keen to seek the views of disabled people themselves and not just people working on their behalf. A draft version of this document was posted on the NLS website, with comments invited for the month of October 2006. This generated a number of comments, which have been taken account of in preparing this final version. We also asked readers of Discover NLS (our main free public magazine) to give us their views about the Library and all its services if they are affected by disability of any kind.

An e-mail address, phone number and postal address were provided as means of responding. Signs were also put up in our reading rooms inviting public comments.

The Library contacted Artlink, an organisation which facilitates the testing out of some of our events and exhibitions by disabled people. They will also be acting as consultants on disability issues for our John Murray Archive exhibition, and for the portrayal of disabled people in it. We also contacted other groups including Health in Mind and Grapevine, asking them to comment on our scheme and inviting them to test our services more generally — access to the buildings and reading rooms, use of the website and catalogues, impressions of contact with library staff, etc. Their feedback helped us to understand any problem areas and priorities.

Edinburgh City Council also provided us with valuable input (both through the Resource Centre of their libraries service and Equalities Unit). Finally, we acknowledge with appreciation those individuals who took the time to pass on their views to us.

3.   Review of information

NLS has also reviewed information we already hold which is useful in order to inform our plans and to make the Library an organisation accessible to all.

We monitor a profile of newly-registered readers, which includes asking people if they have a disability. Over the past three years, the number of people declaring themselves as disabled has been consistent at around 3%. This figure is rather lower that we might expect, although we realise that many people who have some kind of impairment may not identify themselves as 'having a disability'.

We reviewed the findings of a consultant employed by NLS in 2001 to advise on access improvements. We looked at complaints which we have received from the public in the past three years. Three recorded complaints had disability-related aspects: one on the unavailability of the public lift by a reader, one on lack of signage indicating restricted access to level 13 on George IV Bridge and staff attitude, and one on the wording of another sign.

We have commissioned research by external specialists on the accessibility of our website and will continue to use this information to improve our services.

We already have collected information from staff surveys about the number of staff who see themselves as having a disability and will continue to collect this. A 2005 staff survey indicated that 9% of our employees say that they have a disability and the most recent survey (reported above) indicates that 21% of the respondents could be covered by disability discrimination legislation.

Surveys will be repeated routinely, in order to identify any trends which will help us plan our staff recruitment and development activities.

These surveys have been conducted anonymously and we now intend to ask staff to identify themselves to us if they have a disability so that we can properly monitor the effects on them of our employment policies and practices such as training and promotion. Similarly, we will introduce more detailed monitoring and analysis of job applicants in order to track the effects of our recruitment policies and practices over time.

4.   Reviewing the impact of our policies and practices

We have a duty, under the legislation, to describe how we will assess the impact (or the likely impact) of our policies and practices. We have taken a two-stage approach to this requirement.

Firstly, we identified those policies, procedures and practices which appeared to have the greatest impact on disabled people, in connection with developments at our main George IV Bridge Building. These are being considered as part of the project management arrangements for introducing a new Visitor Centre, and deal with access to new services and facilities on the ground floor, to the main reading rooms, and the procedures for evacuating staff and users in the event of an emergency.

Secondly, a more far-reaching review of all the Library's policies and practices will be undertaken next year, as part of the Library's routine annual work planning exercise. All managers will be required to consider how their services, policies and working practices might have an effect (including unintentionally) on any section of the community, including disabled people. This will be carried out as part of the routine annual planning and review of work programmes, in line with the principles of Best Value.

As reported above, the Library has adopted a 'mainstreaming' approach to equalities, meaning that all staff have a responsibility for ensuring that fair and equal treatment is provided. The Library also has a corporate Equalities Group, led by the Director of Customer Services, which reports to the Library's Senior Management Team. This Group monitors key data and trends and provides a forum for evaluating the effectiveness of impact assessment.

5.   Our priorities for the year ahead

Based on our research and discussions with disability interests, we have identified a number of priorities for the coming year, in order to meet the needs of disabled people. The actions which we will carry out in order to meet these needs are summarised in the Action Plan part of this document.

  1. Improving access to our buildings
    Our main George IV Bridge building in particular was not designed for easy access for people with mobility problems and has not provided good access in the past. There are steps from the street entrance to the 'ground floor' (level 11). This is overcome by a single platform lift at present, but it is not always reliable, and access to reading rooms, events and exhibitions can be a problem.

    However, over the 2006/07 winter, NLS will be transforming the building and introducing a new Visitor Centre, where the public can drop in and experience a taste of the collections and services available at NLS, including exhibitions and online services. This provides the opportunity to make a number of crucial access improvements, including the introduction of a second lift at the front entrance to the building, both to increase reliability and also to accommodate access by more than one disabled person at a time. We will also be looking to modify heavy glass internal doors which we know are a barrier to some people.

    Readers with mobility difficulties are accommodated at present in the Ground Floor Reading Room at George IV Bridge (level 11). We will open up the General Reading Room (level 13) to people with mobility impairments as part of the improvements to buildings and visitor services, ending the need for a separate facility for disabled users. This will involve adopting new evacuation procedures in the case of fire or other emergencies, including the training of NLS staff.

    The Library's Causewayside building (which contains our Map Library) was built to be 'fully-accessible' in the 1980s and 1990s. However, access for staff has been restricted owing to limited evacuation plans. Again, new evacuation procedures will be adopted which will open up this building to mobility-impaired staff.

    The Library's Lawnmarket building (administration) is only accessible at ground floor. The Library's main Sighthill building (preservation workshop) is a single storey building with poor access. The Library has also acquired Baden Powell House, Victoria Terrace, Edinburgh to form an education and learning centre. Significant works are required to equip it for this purpose, and it will be designed to be 'fully-accessible'. NLS has not yet identified funding for improvements to the buildings described in this paragraph.
  2. Website accessibility
    The NLS website is a crucial way for people to access our services. We are very aware of the need to make this accessible to people with visual and other impairments, and have received some positive feedback on the design of the website. However, we are also aware of a number of problems which we are dealing with. The online catalogues are not always user-friendly, and a number of legacy web features were designed before our current, accessible standards were introduced.
  3. Events and exhibitions
    We want to make sure that our public programme of events and exhibitions is accessible to all. We use an induction loop at all events. We target events and educational activities at specific groups, including people with disabilities, as well as aiming to make all events accessible to all. Labelling, signage and sound is designed to meet the needs of people with sensory impairments.
  4. Communications
    Feedback has suggested that signs at George IV Bridge should be improved. This is both to help people orientate themselves generally, and also to review the size, clarity and placement of the signs themselves.

    A new corporate identity was introduced to NLS in 2005, which includes the use of a simple font (Gill Sans) as the standard NLS typescript, improving the accessibility of our printed materials for people with visual impairments. We can make our publications accessible in alternative formats on demand, and all public material includes a statement to this effect. We aim to adopt a 'plain English' style in all our communications.
  5. Services
    We will aim to ensure that we treat all our customers fairly and equally in providing services to them. For example, in our Reading Rooms we will assist users with photocopying or other services if needed. We will consider suggestions for 'assistive technology' to help disabled people to use and interpret our collections.

    We will review our staff development requirements to improve understanding of how to identify and respond to disabled people's needs. This may involve disability awareness, or equality awareness, training.
  6. Staff and employment
    We will introduce systems for recording a disability declared by job applicants and for monitoring the effects of our recruitment policies and practices. We will review the findings of this monitoring on a regular basis and will take appropriate steps to address any discrimination or inequalities.

    We will seek to identify staff with disabilities and introduce systems for recording and monitoring the effects on them of our employment policies and practices. We will review the findings of this monitoring on a regular basis and will take appropriate steps to address any discrimination or inequalities. This will be done in co-operation with the Library's recognised trade unions.

    We will devise and provide appropriate development interventions to ensure that managers and staff have the skills and knowledge they need to support the mainstreaming of disability awareness in their work.

    We will ensure that the avoidance of disability discrimination is included as a key element in the Library's Human Resources Strategy and that disability awareness is mainstreamed in people management throughout the Library.

6.   Monitoring, information and reporting

The Library has an Equalities Group which has a corporate responsibility for monitoring progress in all equalities matters and for reporting to the Library's Senior Management Team. It is chaired by Gordon Hunt, Director of Customer Services.

NLS will review the progress made each year on implementing, and if necessary adjusting the Scheme as part of the Library's Corporate Plan and Annual Review. In addition, work reviews throughout NLS will, as a matter of routine, consider equalities issues.

7.   Action plan 2006/07

This table summarises the main actions which we will do in the near future. Please see the relevant section of this document for more detail.

What will we do? Who? When?
Review all policies and practices, in order to assess their impact on disabled people. (This will form part of the Library's routine work planning for the 2007/08 year). All directors and service managers March 2007
Introduce new lift from street level to public areas on the ground floor of George IV Bridge (level 11). Director of Customer Services May 2007
Review signage in George IV Bridge, and across the Library. Director of Customer Services May 2007
Equip public area in George IV Bridge as fully-accessible visitor centre, including PCs with assistive technology and staff supportive to assisting disabled visitors. Director of Customer Services End 2007
Introduce new evacuation procedures, permitting members of the public with mobility impairments to access the General and Special Reading Rooms at George IV Bridge. Director of Customer Services May 2007
Introduce new evacuation procedures, permitting staff to use all levels of Causewayside Building. Director of Customer Services To be confirmed
Conversion of legacy web features, catalogues and other online services into more accessible formats. Director of Strategy and Communications Ongoing
Review our staff development needs (including awareness training) to improve understanding of how to identify and respond to disabled people's needs. Director of Corporate Services To be confirmed
Improve monitoring of HR information Director of Corporate Services March 2007


8.   Further information

If you would like any further information on how the National Library of Scotland of disabled people, please contact:

Gordon Hunt
Director of Customer Services
National Library of Scotland
George IV Bridge

Telephone: 0131 623 3850
Email: g.hunt@nls.uk

For more information about UK Equalities legislation please see http://www.cehr.org.uk

If you require this document in an alternative format, please contact 0131 623 3762 to discuss your needs.

Published: November 2006

Facilities for people with disabilities

For information on access and facilities at NLS for people with disabilities, see our pages on the George IV Bridge Building and the Causewayside Building.


Corporate documents page

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