Accessibility Devices for In-Library Use

Submission Date:


We have a large facility. Sometimes patrons have to walk far to get to various programs and spaces. We have had a few patrons in the recent couple of months ask if we have a wheelchair or walker they could use to help them get around. We consulted with our insurance provider about this and he basically said to ask a lawyer. We want to provide accessibility accommodations but are also concerned if doing so opens us up to liability issues. Thanks!


This is such a beautiful idea! In my experience, there are three things that often impede beautiful ideas:

  1. Insurance concerns;
  2. Legal concerns; and
  3. People who worry that there might be insurance or legal concerns.

This question shows how to protect an idea from these impediments:

  1. Ask the insurance carrier;
  2. Check with legal; and
  3. Be in a position to assure worried people that you've handled the insurance and legal concerns.[1]

As it happens, Ask the Lawyer has addressed this question before, but under slightly different circumstances. In April of 2020,[2] we got a question about lending blood pressure cuffs, pulse oximeters, and forehead thermometers.

The risks assessed in that RAQ are somewhat the same as here, but as these mobility devices are only for on-site use, I will modify the guidance from a 9-step guide to a 3-step guide.

Step 1: Buy Carefully

The equipment purchased per the library's procurement policy and should be under warranty at all times it is in use.

Step 2: Set Clear Terms for Use

The rules and conditions for use of a mobility device should be clearly posted and should be individually agreed to by each user (just once).[3] 


Posted Rules for [Wheelchair/Walker]

This [insert item] may be signed out by any person who has signed the "Equipment Use Agreement" on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The [item] cannot leave [area].

This [item] may be used for up to [#] hours.

The manual for this equipment is at the [insert]. Please review before using.

Please clean the [item] after use; [spray and paper towels][4] are at [insert].

 Equipment Use Acknowledgements and Waiver

I understand the [insert item] may be signed out and used for up to [#] hours.

I have been provided with a copy of or access to the manual for this equipment and agree to use it as set forth in the manual.

Please select:

I agree to clean the [item] after use with the [spray and paper towels] provided.                   


I request the reasonable accommodation of not having to clean the equipment after use.

I hereby agree to hold harmless the Library and its employees with respect to any injury related to the use of this equipment.

I am at least 18 years of age.

I understand that this agreement is in place until revoked by me in writing.

Reviewed and agreed by _______­­­­­______________ on ____________.

                                        Print name                             Date



The Library shall retain a copy of this agreement for six years after its revocation.


Step 3:  Plan, Budget, Train, and Delegate for Function and Cleanliness

As established by Step 1, each mobility device should be carefully selected based on reliability, warranty, and ease of care. 

Step 3 is the other side of that coin: ensuring the mobility devices are maintained as required by the warranty and ready for use by the public.

Since the device will need to be cleaned between each use,[5] budget staff time to quickly check cleanliness and function between uses, and calendar for and log routine evaluation. If there is not sufficient time and budget to do this, it is better to wait and plan to do it in another fiscal year. The routine checking and cleaning of the equipment will be important to both its longevity and to any concerns related to its function (including alleged injury).

Thank you for a great question!


[1] I do not mean to make light of people who rightly point out that initiatives very often have insurance and legal concerns! It just frustrates me when the law and insurance are blamed for the death of an idea, instead of being allowed to support it (which, with proper planning, they can often do).

[2] What, you don't remember reading this one in April 2020?  What could possibly have been distracting you?

[3] This form is as much to be able to regulate use of a limited resource as it is to guard against liability.

[4] Ensure that the cleaning instructions from the warranty are used here.

[5] This is not a legal requirement but a common sense one.


Templates, Accomodations, Accessibility, Liability, Disability