Libraries for the deaf and hard of hearing: an opportunity for librarians to make a difference

Four million people in France have some form of hearing impairment. It is an invisible handicap that creates a major barrier to communication and those affected by deafness from birth have considerable difficulty in accessing information and the written world. The 2005 law on equal rights and opportunities for people with disabilities led to the implementation of a special programme to help the deaf and hard-of-hearing in 2010. Libraries can encourage the social and cultural integration of people with hearing impairments by learning more about their specific needs. Some libraries have made considerable efforts in terms of training staff to deal with readers, collections, and organising cultural events suitable for the deaf as well as learning sign language. Deaf and hearing-impaired readers have responded very favourably, suggesting that they were simply waiting for a “sign” from librarians.