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Visitors with disabilities

Mission and projects for people with disabilities (Mission handicap)

Accessibility for people with disabilities has become a priority at the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

The “Mission Handicap” at the Bibliothèque nationale de France

Under the authority of the BnF’s general management, the officer in charge works in collaboration with ten counterparts in the various departments or delegations of the library. Information is collected and relayed by the different members of the staff who are in charge of finding ways to resolve difficulties encountered by visitors with disabilities and problems in building access policies.

The « Mission handicap » was created in 2003, during the European year of disability. It observes the law of February the 11th, 2005, for the equality of rights and chances, the participation and citizenship of disabled persons. This law refers to the following disabilities: motor disability, sensorial disability, mental and psychic disability, invisible or temporary disability.

This law also concerns accessibility to cultural places and services.

The BnF establishes close relations with various networks specialized in the field of disability: representative institutions, assistance services for acquiring autonomy and getting into the school system, specialized institutions, « Mission handicap » in universities, departmental homes for disabled persons.

In the framework of the « Mission handicap », the BnF has also settled an agreement with the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, to improve accessibility for disabled persons. On the initiative of the Ministry of Culture and Communication, working parties from various cultural institutions meet on a regular basis to focus on the following issues:

  • accessibility to the developed building site
  • new technologies and disability
  • promotion of and communication about a cultural offer adapted to disabled persons.
  • How to welcome visually-impaired visitors and mentally-disabled persons?
  • Employment of disabled persons.

One of the results of groups brainstorming is the publication of the first practical guide devoted to accessibility for disabled persons. Available at:

Other documents are being produced and will be published soon by the Ministry of Culture and Communication.

Projects concerning accessibility for disabled persons at the Bibliothèque nationale de France

The “Handi-livres” prize

The “Handi-livres” prize was created in 2005. Since 2011, it is co-organized by the “Fonds Handicap et Société par intégrance” and the BnF. It aims to encourage authors and focus on disabled persons or works dealing with disability.

Under the patronage of Robert Hossein, it also contributes to making disability better known and to better integrating disabled persons in the city.

There are six categories awarded:

  • novels involving a disabled person as the main character or dealing with disability 
  • biographies telling one’s own experience of disability or a close relation’s
  • guides providing practical information improving daily life of disabled persons 
  • specialized books adapted to all types of disability: books in braille or large characters, audio-books... 
  • books for young people involving a disabled person as the main character, dealing with disability and specifically adressing children and teenagers
  • Children's and teenagers' books (a new category).

This year, the winners of this literary prize will be awarded on November the 24th, during the ceremony that will take place at François-Mitterand Library in the Globes' hall.

For more info

Prix Handi-livres


Assessment of accessibility conditions for disabled persons

In early 2010, an assessment of accessibility conditions for disabled persons was achieved on the various sites of BnF (François-Mitterrand Library, Arsenal Library, Louvois area and the part of Richelieu Library that remained open during renovation work).

This assessment – that also concerns accessibility to the developed building site and the cultural offer – allows to prioritize and plan the work to be achieved in the various areas of the library.

This assessment was made in the legal framework for accessibility of cultural institutions.

The development of Gallica digital library and accessibility approach to internet websites

Accessibility to internet websites is governed by a set of technical standards mainly referenced in the « Référentiel général de l’accessibilité des administrations ». The accessibility issue is considered in the framework of the comprehensive project of digital library and more specifically of Gallica development. Technical standards in force are strictly observed and a series of tests is regularly achieved by visually-impaired users to optimize the use of Braille and vocal interfaces.

Taking into account the development of Gallica website, an « accessibility » page provides information to visually-impaired users about Gallica browsing. The listen mode also allows to listen to documents available in text mode. Other improvements are planned for 2011 to make easier access to documents for visually-impaired users.

Accessing temporary exhibitions

After the specific path implemented for visually-impaired visitors in the permanent exhibition, “The Globes of Louis XIV”, the BnF has initiated a series of measures aiming to provide easier access to temporary exhibitions. However, necessary conditions are not fulfilled that would allow people with disabilities to visit temporary exhibitions by themselves.

Of course, specific standards optimizing visits of motor-disabled persons are observed. Moreover, various devices have been set up to improve the visit of visually-impaired people:

  • touch screen stations
  • texts broadcasting
  • booklet in large characters and Braille lent at the exhibition entrance
  • audioguides available at the entrance
  • to prepare for the exhibition tour or find any further information, the audioguide can be downloaded via the internet website

Exhibition tours in French sign language are also proposed from time to time to hearing-impaired persons.

Staff training

The BnF training plan includes a series of measures connected to accessibility for disabled persons. Each year, training sessions are proposed to the staff to provide information about the activities of the “Mission Handicap” and about accessibility devices set up at the BnF. Fuller training sessions are organised for officers who daily assist disabled readers or visitors. Most of the time, it is a two-day training that enables to face concrete situations: wheel chair circulation, simulation of visual and hearing deficiency...

Demonstration sessions are regularly organised to explain how reading assistance devices work. These sessions are intended to the staff working in the reading rooms housing soundproof booths.

The “Mission Handicap” staff has also produced a practical guide for accompanying officers. This document provides information about the missions of the accompanying person, the services and equipments available, paths to follow with a disabled reader or visitor. It is available online.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014