Accessibility concerns guide the layout and the book selections at the Neverending Bookshop, which is tucked into a mixed-retail complex in Edmonds, Wash. The community bookstore, which focuses on science fiction and fantasy, romance, and mystery, as well as on the children’s and YA categories, is the project of Annie Carl, an outspoken advocate for diversity and positive representations of disabled individuals.

Carl chose the store’s location for its accessible parking, ramps, and indoor openness. With a friend who uses a wheelchair, she measured the distance between nonmoving shelves to accommodate people who use mobility devices. Freestanding bookshelves in the middle of the store are on casters, ready to be rolled aside. Most books are arranged between chair height and a standing person’s eye-level, keeping everything within arm’s reach.

“I thought about my mobility and applied that to the store,” Carl explained. “Our nation builds a ‘point of shame’ into everything we do, and spaces are not built for people with disabilities.” Having been frustrated by out-of-reach items and tripping hazards in other stores, she is considerate in her layout.

In My Tropey Life: How Pop Culture Stereotypes Make Disabled Life Harder, a 2020 zine from Microcosm Publishing, Carl wrote that she was born with lipomeningomyelocele, a rare spinal birth defect, which resulted in a lifelong series of surgeries and difficulty walking. She later survived non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which caused hair loss and hydrocephalus.

“I have been in a wheelchair post-op, and I use walking sticks as mobility aids when I’m not home or here at the store,” Carl said. “I think about not being able to get into places if they have four-inch steps without railings.”

Carl was drawn to reading, writing, and bookselling, because “books have been my happy place since I was six or seven,” she said. She remembers being an avid reader as a child, diving into escapist fiction to manage the trauma of health scares. She learned the book trade at the used shop Mr. B’s Bookery (now Kingston Bookery) in her hometown of Kingston, Wash., and as a bookseller at Third Place Books Lake Forest Park, before establishing the Neverending Bookshop in Bothell, just north of Seattle, in 2015.

In 2018, Carl moved to the Edmonds location, where she is the sole proprietor. Her mother, Nancy Tietje, takes a weekend shift so Carl can spend time with her husband and elementary school–age child; Carl’s sister Marie Tietje plans to volunteer at the shop, too. The store is open Wednesday through Sunday.

When choosing titles, Carl refuses to stock reductive, feel-good narratives about bootstrapping. The Neverending Bookshop is not the place to find a memoir about triumphing over obstacles; Carl is wary of condescension. Instead, her shelves feature middle grade and teen reads like Ellen Outside the Lines, A.J. Sass’s story of an autistic girl, and Jamie Sumner’s Roll with It, about a young baker who uses a wheelchair. A social science and nonfiction section includes Devon Price’s Laziness Does Not Exist, Tricia Hersey’s Rest Is Resistance: A Manifesto, and Sara Hendren’s What Can a Body Do? How We Meet the Built World.

In My Tropey Life, which describes how to identify positive representation and be an ally, Carl writes about “the historical devaluation of disabled people and their marginalization from the able-bodied world,” and the need for awareness around accessibility in bookstores. She examines why narratives like Avatar, which promise freedom from disability, make her angry at best, depressed at worst. She also writes fiction, including the 2022 outer-space novella Nebula Vibrations, and edited the forthcoming anthology Soul Jar: 31 Fantastical Tales by Disabled Authors (Forest Avenue, Oct.).

The neighborhood shop has had “a rough year due to inflation and interest rates,” Carl admitted, but she elevates her local profile by sponsoring Edmonds Heights Performing Arts children’s theater, donating to the Seattle-based Gender Justice League, and offering a Golden Ticket promotion for a chance to win 12 audiobooks on Independent Bookstore Day, which is set for April 29 this year. (A Braille sign in her store directs visually impaired customers to

Reflecting on diversity and inclusion, Carl asserted that “my community has a long and bloody history—it’s only in the past 100 years or so that we have been surviving past childhood”—and that the need is great for authentic representation. At the Neverending Bookstore and in bookselling spaces, Carl added, “I won’t stop being loud.”