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race Cail is a determined 18-year-old who isn’t used to barriers—despite the fact that she lives with Myotonic Dystrophy. The disease affects her ability to walk, so Grace uses a wheelchair to get around.

With the help of her advocate Bridget, Grace recently began work on a project about the history of churches in Madisonville. She and Bridget decided to visit the Madisonville Branch Library to do some research. But they couldn’t even get in the door. “I’m so used to seeing a wheelchair entrance,” said Grace. “We thought–maybe it’s around back. And we went around back and there’s nothing.” That’s because the Madisonville Branch Library, located on Whetsel Avenue, is not accessible. The historic building opened in 1925 and does not have any entrance for those with physical limitations. That means people who can’t walk up the steps either have to call a Librarian to bring their materials outside, or have to visit a different branch. “It is truly difficult for my friends and me because then we can’t go anywhere inside,” said a frustrated Grace during a recent conversation with Library staff. “If all public buildings had accessibility, we’d be just like everybody else.”

The work to make all branches in the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County system accessible to those with disabilities is the top priority of the Library’s Facility Plan. The Library is working to find funding for the project, which would set aside money for all branches in need of repair and would bring five branches–Cheviot, Madisonville, Price Hill, Walnut Hills, and Wyoming–up to accessibility standards. It would also make the auditorium at the Norwood Branch Library accessible. Sara Sheets, executive director of the Madisonville Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation, said improvements are important for thousands of people in Hamilton County. “We have people all the time who want to come for meetings or to check out books from the Madisonville Branch Library and they just can’t get into the Library,” said Sheets. “We have an older population in Madisonville—27 percent of our residents are over age 55. We have several hundred units of senior housing about two blocks away and on any given day you’ll see people in wheelchairs scooting around the neighborhood but they can’t get into the Library.” The Facilities Plan would cost an estimated $54 million to complete. That might sound like a lot of money, but those funds will be used to upgrade all branches in all communities. For Grace, it’s really about getting the same access to Library items and services that her friends enjoy. “What if you knew someone with a disability?” Grace asked. “Wouldn’t you want them to be able to have a normal life?” Learn more about the Library’s Facilities Plan by visiting

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