3 Accessibility Topics for Public Service Points


This chapter will address specific accessibility issues that may come up for you at public service points. We will cover the following topics:

  • Service animals
  • Mobility devices
  • Accommodation requests

Service Animals

“You do not need to approach a person with an animal unless the animal is misbehaving or there are complaints from other users about the animal’s presence.” (UW Libraries Staffweb)

Service Animals vs. Therapy Animals

Service animals are allowed in the UW Libraries. Service animals can be “any dog or miniature horse that is individually trained to perform tasks for an individual with a disability, including physical, sensory, mental, psychological, intellectual, or other mental disabilities.” (Disability Services Office). Service animals may or may not have outward designations (vests, paperwork, collars, etc). Please note that service animals are working, so do not approach service animals to pet them or interact with them. Remember that the library user needs the service animals as an accessibility tool, and they are just trying to live their lives. Having said that, if the library user invites you to talk about their service animal/interact with them, you can do so based on your own comfort level.

Therapy animals (or emotional support animals, comfort animals, or passive support animals) are not considered service animals. Library users with these animals may have accommodations from the DSO. If there are further questions, ask your supervisor!

Approaching Patrons with Service or Therapy Animals in the Libraries

If you must approach a library user with a service or therapy animal, check in with your supervisor first! They might have more information on the situation and guidance.

For context: there are only two questions that may be asked about a service animal:

  • “Is this a service animal required because of a disability?”
  • “What tasks has this animal been trained to perform?”

If a patron answers “yes” to the first question, you usually will not need to ask the 2nd question. Do not ask any other questions about a service animal other than the two mentioned. Examples of questions you should not ask:

  • Any verification of training
  • Documentation of disability
  • Demonstration of trained tasks

Service Animals – Questions & Answers

  • What do we do if a service animal is causing a disruption?
    • Check in with your supervisor or a lead! If no supervisor is available and you must approach the library user with a service animal, you may ask them the two allowed questions:
      • “Is this a service animal required because of a disability?”
        • If the patron answers “no” to this first question, let the patron know that while service animals are allowed in the building, other companion animals must remain outside of the building.
        • If the patron says “yes” to this first question and the animal is under control, thank them and leave.
        • If the patron says “yes” to this first question but the animal is not under control, or is causing a disruption, you may ask the patron to leave the building with the animal until it can be brought under control. If the patron refuses, talk to your supervisor.
      • “What tasks has this animal been trained to perform?”
    • Your supervisor’s next steps will be to reach out to UWPD (Seattle) or Campus Safety (Bothell & Tacoma) for assistance and to log the incident.
  • A patron asks why there is an animal in the building – how should you respond?
    • Thank them for letting you know, and let them know that service animals are welcome in the libraries.
    • You do not need to confirm for the user that the animal is a service animal.
    • If they ask how you know that that is a service animal, you may let them know that service animals are not required to display any outward paperwork or designations.
    • If the patron has further questions about service animals, refer them to your supervisor!
  • A patron lets you know that they have an allergy to a service animal – how should you respond?
    • Help the user with the allergy find a different location in the library to study.
    • If you are unable to help them find another space, talk to your supervisor.
  • Be kind in your responses to all queries to both the patron asking the question and the library user with the service animal.

Mobility Devices

Unlike other wheeled devices, mobility devices are allowed in the UW Libraries, as you can see in the Code of Conduct below.

“INDIVIDUALS WILL NOT[…] Disturb or disrupt the academic pursuits of other library users. Prohibited behaviors include, but are not limited to: […]Using motorized or non-motorized wheeled devices inside the libraries, including the use of bicycles, skateboards, hoverboards, scooters, and shopping carts that are larger than a small, wheeled luggage cart. These restrictions do not apply to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mobility devices or medical assistive devices, baby strollers, or to university staff and contractors in the course of their work.” (UW Libraries Code of Conduct)

Mobility devices are diverse in their appearance and function. If you aren’t sure if a wheeled device should be inside the library or not, check in with your supervisor.

  • What does this mean? If you see someone come in with something you recognize as a bicycle, skateboard, or hoverboard, it would be reasonable to assume these are not mobility devices.
  • Be kind and err on the side of believing the patron! However, it is important to let your supervisor know about the interaction so that they may follow up if needed.
  • Patrons with unusual or newer mobility devices often have paperwork that they will present to you.

Responding to Accommodation Requests

A patron approaches you with an accommodation request. What should you do?

  • Short answer: Get your supervisor involved!
  • Longer answer:
    • If the request is easy to carry out, not disruptive, and reasonable, we will likely simply do it.
    • For more complicated or longer term accommodations: We would help the patron to the best of our abilities in the moment, but we would also refer the library user to additional resources on campus. Each campus has a Disability Resources for Students (DRS) office, which are linked below under “Resources”, and UW staff & faculty can also gain additional help from the Disability Services Office (DSO). These offices can often purchase or provide equipment for students and staff that specific spaces/units may not be able to! Examples: Chairs with specific features or ergonomic support; reserved spaces with low lighting for migraines, etc.

Again: be kind, be understanding, and err on the side of believing the library user. You can’t go wrong by being kind.

  • If your supervisor is not available and you have to make an “in the moment” call, be sure to follow up with your supervisor via email immediately.




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Quick Tips for Accessibility Copyright © 2023 by Perry Yee; Deepa Banerjee; Kira Wyld; Artemis L.; and Jinny S. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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