The Challenge
Raise awareness of the Library's braille and assistive technology workshops to the blind and visually impaired community.

The Outcome
A strategy that introduces the Library to the hands of job seekers earlier in the user's journey.

Superimposed existing customer journey map in gray with proposed design in red.

Duration: 7 weeks
Role: Design Research, Strategic Planning, Service Design, Communication Design
Collaborators: Jennifer Wei, Ke Hu, Paula Daneze
Advisors: Marshall Sitten, Citi Community Development
The Andrew Heiskell Library is the only branch of the New York Public Library that serves people who are blind, visually impaired, or are otherwise physically unable to read standard print. The Library serves residents who live in New York City and Long Island, providing reading rooms, large collections of specially-formatted materials, audio playback equipment for listening to recorded books and magazines, and a variety of other electronic reading aids. In addition, the Library offers educational and individual assistive technology training, as well as, local community events for patrons.

First floor of the library with reading space.

The Process
The team gathered qualitative and quantitive information through field and desk research:

Field research: the team visited the Library and conducted semi-directed interviews with library staff members as well as on-site observations. In addition, the team interviewed important
stakeholders including current teaching volunteering staff, inactive users, and a staff member from the New York State Commission for the Blind (NYSCB).

Desk research: the team also gathered and analyzed online and offline data from existing government agencies, non-profit organizations, and educational institutions.​​​​​​​

Research findings: 70% of working age blind adults remain unemployed. Only 1 in 10 blind people can read braille. The top 3 employment skills are braille literacy, mobility and orientation, and keyboard touching. The Andrew Heiskell Library offers free workshops and training for all those skills.

A big market opportunity. The workshop services are being underused, and there are thousands of blind and visually impaired users that could benefit from this service. This proposal design focuses on the visually impaired and blind people–legally and non legally–that are seeking employment and/or want to develop fundamental skills to apply for jobs. These are the type of users that need this service the most, and the Library offers the top employment skills needed in the market.

Insights from user research: most visually impaired and blind people in New York City don't know about the library's workshop and training services. Also, there is an enormous amount of people the library isn't researching. There are 53,000 people reported with a visual disability in New York City. Only 85-90 patrons attend the workshops monthly. The team also found that learning assistive technology is one of the main incentives that draws people into the library.

A save haven. The Library is described as a “safe haven” by existing patrons because it is an environment where they feel safe and welcome, they acquire knowledge and new skills for free, and it is a place where they can meet sighted and non-sighted people.
The Solution

The current learning workshops at the Library are very personalized and are usually taught one-one. Participants can get full attention from instructors, digest the learning materials at their own pace, access the Library's entire braille collection, and get support from the friendly staff and the community. The team looked at the customer journey map from two personas and identify key stages in the journey where the Library's services could be introduce earlier:

1. A legally blind job seeker that needs to learn braille to qualify for a job. 

Existing Journey: When a blind person seeks to participate in programs sponsored by the New York State Commissioner for the Blind, he/she has to register as legally blind first. The application process takes about two weeks before approval. In the meantime, participants receive a welcome package that includes brochures of services available for the blind or visually impaired people by nonprofit organizations including the Library's current Talking Books service. It does not include information about the workshop and training services. Participants only hear about the Library workshops when they are directly referred by the NYSCB Commissioner for training later in the journey.

Ideal journey: considering the NYSCB is the first stopping point for people who seek training programs and want to find about their benefits as a legally blind person, the team believes that it is a good opportunity to reach potential users. Our solution is to include a brochure introducing the Library’s workshop services in the NYSCB’s welcome package. This also shifts the entry/contact point with the library earlier in the journey, allowing customers to feel less stressed and quickly enter the learning phase in the journey of seeking independence and employment. The signup process at the library is less complicated than the one at the NYSCB. 

2. A recent visually impaired person not ready to register as legally blind that needs help self-navigating and using assistive technology.

Existing journey: there is a problem with delivering information about Library’s workshops to the public in general, both offline and online. A visually impaired person knows about the Library but does not finds out about the workshops until they read it from the quarterly newsletter. 

Ideal journey: in order to allow customers to know about the Library workshops, especially those who are not legally blind, the Library needs to train their staff to inform customers about the workshops in multiple touchpoints. Some of the channels identified to deliver this message are: in-person interactions, phone calls, the Andrew Heiskell Library website, the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities website (MOPD), social media, and brochures such as the one introduced in this proposal that can be distributed in the NYSCB’s welcome package or other nonprofits.


Brochure design, NYSCB welcome packet: the brochure will be included inside the welcome packet sent by the NYSCB. The existing package includes information about the NYSCB and other organizations that assist the blind, including the Andrew Heiskell Library. However, it does not mention the Library workshops. This brochure will allow users to find out about them sooner in their journeys. The brochure will be colorful and written on both regular text and braille so that both caretakers and the visually impaired or blind can access the information. A QR code is provided for those who wish to listen the information in audio format. 

Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities website: the MOPD is another resource for visually impaired and blind people. It provides information on accessible programs, accessible transportation, employment, health services and activities. Its website also provides information about the Andrew Heiskell Library. The new design will include information about the Library's trainings and workshops. The left menu of the page provided non-useful information to visually impaired users, therefore it will be removed to simplify their user experience. Minimizing the words to be listened will allow them to obtain information a lot faster.

New library website: currently, the trainings and workshops are listed on the Events section, which is confusing and difficult to find. In the new page design workshops are moved up and are listed with other services in a more efficient way. All the services will be highlighted with a different design treatment. The workshops and trainings page will be organized by schedule and difficulty level.

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