Library Accessibility

The resources below are intended to assist libraries with establishing effective policies and procedures for delivering accessible library services and instructional content.

Policy and Practice Guidance

  • The Association of Research Libraries formed the Joint Task Force on Services to Patrons with Print Disabilities to investigate the technological, legal, and service-related issues related to patrons who are unable to use conventional print materials. The Task Force's Final Report in 2012 summarizes important legal, technical, and service-related findings and provides specific, actionable recommendations for libraries regarding accessibility for patrons with print disabilities.
  • The Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies, a Division of the American Library Association (ALA), has developed a toolkit to assist library staff with incorporating accessibility considerations into library business practices. The ASCLA website provides the following resources:
    • Library Accessibility--What You Need to Know (updated 2010) is a toolkit comprised of 15 tipsheets designed to assist librarians with understanding and managing a range of accessibility issues. Most are organized around disability categories (e.g. Blindness and Low Vision, Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing, Learning Disabilities, Physical Disabilities). Other tipsheets focus on special populations and related topics (Assistive Technology, Children with Disabilities, Patrons with Service Animals, Library Staff with Disabilities).
    • "Think Accessible Before You Buy": Questions to Ask to Ensure that the Electronic Resources Your Library Plans to Purchase are Accessible is a white paper (2008) which provides guidelines and checklists to assist library staff when evaluating electronic resources for accessibility. While the checklist and guidelines are derived from Section 508 and WCAG standards for software and web-based content, the organization and language has been adapted for use by staff with less technical backgrounds.
  • The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), an international body representing the library and information services professions, operates the Libraries Serving Persons with Print Disabilities (LPD) project. The LPD project provides several publications which, despite their age, include valuable information:
    • Designing and Building Integrated Digital Library Systems - Guidelines (2005) provides detailed guidelines on implementing accessible E&IT systems for various library functions (e.g. acquisition, cataloging/indexing, storage, circulation/distribution, and delivery) to serve the needs of those with print disabilities. It includes comprehensive coverage of accessibility considerations at all phases of project development and includes highly informative reference materials as appendices including a Training and Support plan, Use Cases, User Profiles, Case Studies, and an extended Glossary of Terms.
    • Libraries for the Blind in the Information Age - Guidelines for Development (2005) provides detailed guidelines on implementing library services specifically tailored for persons with disabilities. The guidelines address a wide variety of topics (e.g. legal framework, collection development, training, delivery methods, alternate format production, management and marketing, and QA). It includes comprehensive practice recommendations along with supporting references.
  • DO-IT operates the AccessLibraries project which develops guidelines, training materials, and presentation/awareness support materials to promote universal design in library settings. This grant-funded project (NSF, US Dept of Ed, and State of Washington) provides several excellent resources including:
    • Equal Access: Universal Design of Libraries (2008) which provides guidelines for ensuring that multiple facets of library operations (e.g. policies, physical environments and products, staff training and knowledge, technology resources, and events) are aligned to delivery accessible library services. It also provides useful tips regarding communication with persons with disabilities.
    • Universal Access: Electronic Resources in Libraries provides a collection of materials that presenters may use to promote universal design principles in library settings. In addition to handouts, there are links to videos, discussion guides, support references
    • Equal Access: Campus Libraries (2004) is a 10-minute video which discusses how applying universal design principles can make libraries accessible for all patrons.

Model Practices

  • Library Services at the Open University in the UK maintains a Disabled users support web portal which aggregates accessibility-related information for persons with disabilities (e.g. support services, technical resources, physical layout and equipment, links to external support entities, etc.). Importantly, this portal is easily reached via a prominent link on the main Open University Library's Help and Support page.

Library Product Accessibility Information

  • Accessibility to Library Databases and Other Online Library Resources for People with Disabilities is a Wiki maintained by the ASCLA which provides aggregated information about the accessibility of specific library products (e.g. databases, e-books, e-journals, and federated search engines). While the organization of the content is inconsistent and sometimes lack critical details (e.g. posting date, applicable product version), it can be a valuable source for vendor accessibility information, accessibility screening results, contract language, etc. This information may assist campuses in developing equally-effective access plans.
  • Databases accessibility issues is a website maintained by the Open University in the UK which provides aggregated information regarding library database accessibility. Among the most useful information on the site is instructions for users on how to utilize accessibility features and work around accessibility gaps for specific databases. This information may help inform the development of Equally-Effective Alternate Access Plans (EEAAPs). Note, that while this page is updated periodically and includes information on when the page was last modified, the page does not indicate when information for specific databases was entered, reviewed, or updated. Campuses will thus need to evaluate whether the information provided still pertains to the current product version.

Research