To make sure we are all clear and on the same page for the remainder of this post, here’s the definition of a makerspace:
A makerspace is a physical location where people gather to co-create, share resources and knowledge, work on projects, network, and build. They help intermediate and advanced users develop their skills and creativity. Their activity promotes development of high-end technology skills needed for prosperity and social mobility.
Whilst the makerspace idea begins to mature, there is still a great deal of work to be done in implementing universally accessible makerspaces in the library, and information about how to deliver such a space is pretty scarce. So, we’ve been doing our research and with the help of the following title (which you can find on dawsonera)
Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities and the Inclusive Future of Libraries – Edited By Brian Wentz, Paul T. Jaeger, John Carlo Bertot
we thought we’d provide a little guidance on what you can do to provide the necessary equipment and environment to encourage innovation regardless of ability.
Libraries are well positioned to provide a focus for makerspaces; already infused with ideas and knowledge in the form of books and other resources, your library can help students turn ideas into reality.
So what do you need to consider to ensure any makerspace you create is designed with accessibility in mind?
Communication – It seems fairly obvious, but many overlook this. Ensure you create a two-way dialogue with your users so you are aware of the diverse range of abilities, backgrounds, service preferences and so on. Gathering regular feedback from those using the makerspace or those you want to use the makerspace will allow continual development.
Configuration of the space – Considering things such as location of the makerspace – how easy is it to get to for those with impaired mobility? Are there lifts/ramps (if necessary), is there enough room to maneuver around the space without impeding others? How is the lighting, does the area require sound dampening?
Policy – Does the makerspace abide by the guidelines already set-out by your institution? Whilst a makerspace is unlikely to fall into the ‘must follow’ arena, considering whether it does will help to make it more accessible.
Oreintations for the makerspace – Like with anything new and slightly different some users will be afraid to venture into the unknown alone – offering orientations to any students to show what’s available, demonstrate any equipment, lay down the guidelines for use, etc., will help reduce barriers for use and make it more accessible for everyone.
Select the right products/equipment – Whilst some public libraries promote makerspaces with power tools and similar equipment, this isn’t something that is necessarily right for your institution. Academic makerspaces are more likely to consist of items such as Raspberry Pi, filming equipment and more technology based items, rather than hand tools. Work with your students and faculty to understand what items would be valuable to include and go from there.
Whilst this is not a definitive list of how to make your makerspace more accessible, it should at least set you on the right path to producing a space that people can and want to use – then you can adapt from there. Let the innovation begin!