Libraries, Accessibility, and Equal Access to Information (Blog 2)

I was struck this week by the complexity of making the web accessible and the challenges this creates for libraries. So many libraries face heavy demands for time and money, and I wonder how many have enough staff focused on web development to make library websites accessible? Beyond that, how many librarians choosing electronic resources know enough about accessibility to truly evaluate the resources they are selecting? Or what about librarians creating electronic content (blog posts, book lists, handouts, videos, etc.)? Based on what Stephanie Rosso talked about in class, Hennepin County Library has three full-time staff working on their website, and they can only devote limited amounts of attention to the topic. What about small or rural libraries, perhaps with only one professional librarian? How can their resources and websites be made accessible?

Libraries are committed to creating the most equitable access to information possible. However, without attention to accessibility, libraries maintain or create barriers to information. One of my readings for this week said it well, “Until a person with disabilities can walk into any local library and get answers to his or her questions from anyone on the staff, we cannot say that equality of information for individuals with disabilities exists—exists not for a few but for all” (235).

The other thing I was thinking about this week was whether or not library staff are prepared to help patrons with assistive technology. In both libraries I’ve worked in, perhaps one staff member was trained in how to use the computers with assistive technologies (usually their training was very brief). In my current library, we have an entire assistive technology room that is run by the campus disability services. Until recently, no one on our staff had been in the room, knew what assistive technologies were available, or now to use any of them. It seems like accessibility remains such a niche area that it is hard to truly prepare our library staff to provide the best service to patrons with disabilities.

Work Cited

Lewis, J. (2013). Information equality for individuals with disabilities: Does it exist? The Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy, 83(3), pp. 229-235. doi: 10.1086/670697

Cross-posted from St. Kate’s MLIS WordPress.

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