By: Celise Reech-Harper, Associate Director, Beauregard Parish Library
Accessibility and inclusivity are often discussed in terms of physical barriers to reaching resources: distances that are too long, rooms that are not navigable, presentations that are unintelligible. However, accessibility is also often dictated by social constraints, expectations, and impressions. The presence of that particular type of access challenge surfaced in my library’s service area last year amid discussions with local partner agencies and community members.
While senior adults in our community were often interested, even eager, to learn about new technologies, they were equally unlikely to sign up or show up, for tech-based classes or programs. Within that disconnect lay the barrier. Facing that problem, and with a regularly scheduled library craft program with two years of history at the local Council on Aging, I, along with Patty McCullough of the Beauregard Council on Aging, developed an opportunity for tech-curious senior adults.
Meeting in the bright, open space at the Council on Aging was more comfortable for these patrons. They already visited, often enjoying crafts, meals, games, and conversation; the senior adults were found to be more likely to freely ask questions, participate in hands-on demonstrations, and explore technology in what they regarded as “their own” space. Thus was born “All Hands On Tech.”
“All Hands on Tech” is an evolving program series based upon the interests and needs of the attendees. Each month has a different topic. So far, we have discussed basic parts of a laptop, online safety, mobile device tips, fun and functional robots, and coding. This outreach is particularly important because many senior adults in our rural communities do not have access, resources, or the skills to make technology a part of their daily lives; this can result in their feeling, as they have reported, out of step, embarrassed, or disconnected. Through “All Hands on Tech,” the Beauregard Parish Library and Council on Aging are dispelling those feelings and replacing them with curiosity, encouragement, and exploration!
Participants enthusiastically attend this event and encourage others to attend as well. During our last session, participants who had very limited prior experience with technology laughingly raced Spheros around a maze of chairs.
Our cooperative program is making technology and tech-education more inclusive and accessible. Thanks to a successful partnership and willingness to bring the library’s wealth of resources beyond its physical walls, patrons are enjoyably learning new skills and our library mission of knowledge, growth, and imagination is being furthered.