Public information - barrier or bridge?

Student thesis: Master programme thesis

  • Marie Engberg Eiriksson
4. term, Master of Universal Design and Accessibility (Continuing education) (Continuing Education Programme (Master))
In this thesis, I investigate how information about programs and events at public libraries effect patrons with disabilities and their decisions to attend cultural events.
The empirical basis of the thesis is an examination of 50 events at 10 different Danish public library systems and interviews with three young persons with physical disabilities. In the interviews, we look at both descriptions of events at selected libraries as well as one event where information about accessibility was added, and different versions of the same accessibility description with variation in graphic design and language.
The theoretical standpoint is the seven principles and eight goals of universal design interpretated into an information context. The idea is to apply Ron Maces original thoughts of designs being both functional and attractive and Steinfeld and Maces focus on the users’ experience of e.g., wellness and social integration being the goal for universal design.
When looking at the event descriptions, I use both universal design theory and Foucault’s theory of heterotopias of deviance as well as Susan Lingsoms 4 faces of entering the public sphere: anticipation, preparation, reflection, and recovery.
The study of the websites shows that information and services aimed at persons with impairment or disabilities on the library websites, is often sparse, faulty, or missing. In the cases where information is available it is often separate from the rest of the information and institutional in both aesthetic and language.
The 3 interviewees experience was that the library information aimed at them was separate from that of the “normal” users, or as one interviewee stated, the accessibility information on the library webpage was “a whole different world”.
All interviewees where very aware that there were people behind the information and interpreted differing elements of “care” or “understanding of their needs” in both details of the accessibility information, specific words or pictures used and placement of the information. This perceived care or lack thereof can be a motivational factor in the decision to attend an event or not.
The interviewees to some degree mirror the experience of the library information onto their expectation of the library itself. If the event information and accessibility information is separate or lacking, they suspect that their experience at an event to also be lacking.
Based on the study I conclude that dividing information into “general” information and “special” information in both placement, graphic design, and language, creates informational “heterotopias of deviance”. This effects the reflections on both anticipation, preparation, and recovery for the interviewees and thus the motivation to participate in events and programming at local libraries.
Publication date25 Oct 2021
Number of pages48
ID: 450971212