Bradford Care Trust and Library Partnership Project
2009 Digital Access Onsite Commendation
In partnership with Bradford & District Care Trust, Bradford Central Library has become a hub of opportunity for people with profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD), to engage in educational and socialising activities. Relocating the Care Trust’s Sign Posting Service (a drop in service for people with learning disabilities) into the Library itself led to the creation of ‘Changing Places’, a feeding and changing facility for adults with severe disabilities (the only one of it kind in the city centre) and the provision of a classroom/ IT suite for disabled users.
These facilities have enabled people with a wide range of learning disabilities to access the library and its IT facilities. They are discovering the library to be a place where they find not only mental stimulation but also social integration. Service users make extensive use of the library Learning Zone and café area where they socialise with other library users.
People using the Sign Posting Service participate in travel training and can then be offered learning opportunities at a variety of venues, enabling them to become more independent and more employable.
In 2007 funding was obtained from UK online for the User Journey Project: “taking people from digital exclusion to digital citizenship”. A specialist tutor was employed for 4 hours a week to support the service users learning, and folders were kept recording their progress.
Since then the library has introduced a ground breaking learning course for people with PMLD, normally excluded from educational opportunities due to their physical needs. The ‘Changing Places’ facility made the library Learning Zone a suitable venue to pilot two 10 week courses entitled ‘Communication & Advocacy.
Bradford Libraries consists of 31 static and 3 mobile libraries. Their vision is to provide the opportunity for everyone to access learning, information and cultural expression through existing and emerging technologies. They offer free courses in basic IT skills and have public access PCs, many of which are adapted for access by people with disabilities
A number of people with learning disabilities sit on the Learning Disabilities Partnership Board, which has been closely associated with this project. The Care Trust became aware of the complete lack of educational provision for adults with PLMD, and local colleges approached could not accommodate these students due to their physical needs. Having identified that people with learning disabilities who visit the library have issues relating to confidence, trust and social skills, the library has supported them effectively whilst they learn to use the IT.
The library wasn’t what I expected. I was too embarrassed to use it before, but now I feel much more confident. It just seemed an overwhelming place, but now I come here, and I love the computers, and I like learning new skills and writing stories. It’s opened up a whole new world.
(quoted in The Guardian, 23rd April 2008)
The success of the 10 week pilot PMLD courses has led to 4 students being offered a 20 week course during 2008-9, with personal tutoring. A follow up course is planned to allow suitable learners to make further progress. The £5,000 prize money from CILIP Libraries Change Lives award has enabled the building of a classroom which increases the flexibility of the learning environment.
The project is organic and continues to develop, exploring ways of working to meet Care Trust service users’ needs. The general community has also benefited from contact with the target group and social inclusion has been a welcome outcome of the project.