A new library is coming to Guelph, but it's not a place to borrow books. Instead, residents have access to free mobility aids and accessibility aids.
It is called the Guelph Access Library (GAL) and it is a space where individuals can borrow equipment for free. Some of the items that will be available include canes, crutches, an electric wheelchair and more.
The way it works is residents can view equipment inventory online with heights and measurements of the equipment. These items can then be taken for a limited time with the possibility of renewing the item. The item will be dropped off to the user by a volunteer driver. Residents do not need to make an account in order to take out an item, but do need to provide contact information.
Kinnery Chaparrel, founder of GAL, said the idea for an access library began a year ago after someone online asked for help finding a replacement walker after breaking theirs. Chaparrel, a mature university student who also uses a cane for walking, said it stuck her how crucial it was for someone to have access to mobility aids.
"I've considered, 'Oh, would I benefit from using a walker sometimes?' and not being able to afford to invest in that and find out it does not work for me, I thought, 'What if I could just borrow one and find out,'" said Chapperel.
The access library is not just for people who use this equipment on a daily basis. Chaparrel adds the program can also help people with temporary disabilities, like using a cane while having a sprained ankle, or needing a wheelchair during an injury recovery.
"It shouldn't have to be that it helps people without disabilities for it to matter, but a lot of things that help people with disabilities also helps people without disabilities," said Chaparrel, adding a lot of people will become disabled themselves or experience a temporary disability at some point in their lives.
Since announcing the idea on Twitter earlier in December, Chaparrel said the response has been fantastic from the community and they have received lots of donations. While still accepting donations, she adds the library needs of a space to store everything.
"Right now, I don't have as many items because I don't have enough space to store them," said Chaparrel, adding the space must be scent-free, wheel-chair accessible and have access to power to charge some equipment.
Once they have a space secured, Chaparrel hopes to launch the access library in January 2023 so people can be have access to this as soon as possible.
Besides GAL, Chaparrel is the organizer of the University of Guelph Disability Committee and Disability Education Empowerment and Pride (DEEP), a group aimed at connecting the disability community for socializing and learning through discussions.
"Accessibility is so, so important to me, on a personal level, I'm looking at masters programs in critical disability studies, and things like that," said Chaparrel.
"I think accessibility isn't an end goal, but embedding it in everything that we do is so crucial. So trying to just bring it in at the ground level of everything and making sure those voices are there, and that disability is something people are thinking about, that accessibility is something people are thinking about."
Volunteer drivers and help setting up the website are also needed for GAL. Anyone who is interested in helping the Guelph Access Library can contact Chaparrel online.