Equal Access: Universal Design of Libraries

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A checklist for making libraries welcoming, accessible, and usable

by Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph.D

Libraries play an important role in ensuring that everyone has access to information in printed and electronic forms. In making these resources accessible and useful to everyone, principles of universal design (UD) can be employed.

Legal Issues

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments of 2008 prohibit discrimination against individuals with disabilities. According to these laws, no otherwise qualified person with a disability shall, solely by reason of his or her disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity of a public entity. "Person with a disability" means "any person who has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities including walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment."

Universal Design

Universal design (UD) means that rather than designing your facility and services for the average user, you design them for people with a broad range of abilities, disabilities, and other characteristics—such as age, reading ability, learning style, language, culture, and others. Keep in mind that students and other visitors may have learning disabilities or visual, speech, hearing, and mobility impairments. Making your library accessible to them will make it more usable by everyone and minimize the need for special accommodations for those who use your services and for future employees as well. Ensure that everyone feels welcome, and can

Train staff to support people with disabilities, respond to specific requests for accommodations in a timely manner, and know whom they can contact if they have disability-related questions.

Guidelines and Examples

The following questions can guide you in making your library accessible to everyone. This content does not provide legal advice. To help clarify issues, consult your institution's legal counsel or ADA/504 compliance officer or call the regional Office for Civil Rights (OCR) can also help clarify issues.

Planning, Policies, and Evaluation

Consider diversity issues as you plan and evaluate services.

Physical Environments and Products

Ensure physical access, comfort, and safety within an environment that is inclusive of people with a variety of abilities, racial and ethnic backgrounds, genders, and ages.

Library Staff

Make sure staff are prepared to work with all patrons.

Information Resources and Technology

Ensure that publications and websites welcome a diverse group and content is accessible to everyone.

Events

Ensure that everyone feels welcome and can participate in events sponsored by the organization.

Checklist Updates

This checklist was field-tested at more than twenty postsecondary institutions nationwide (see www.uw.edu/doit/Brochures/Academics/admin.html). A nationwide survey to test face-validity of checklist items led to further refinement of the checklist. To increase the usefulness of this working document, send suggestions to sherylb@u.washington.edu.

Additional Resources

An electronic copy of the most current version of this publication as well as additional useful brochures can be found at www.uw.edu/doit/Brochures/. A 10-minute video, Equal Access: Campus Libraries, demonstrates key points summarized in this publication. It may be freely viewed online and purchased in DVD format from DO-IT. Consult www.uw.edu/doit/Video/ for access to this and other videos that may be of interest. Permission is granted to reproduce DO-IT videos and publications for educational, noncommercial purposes provided the source is acknowledged.

For more information about making your library accessible to everyone, consult The Student Services Conference Room at www.uw.edu/doit/Conf/. It includes checklists for career services, distance learning, computer labs, recruitment and admissions, registration, housing and residential life, financial aid, libraries, tutoring and learning centers, and student organizations. The Student Services Conference Room also includes a searchable Knowledge Base of questions and answers, case studies, and promising practices.

For more information about applications of universal design consult www.uw.edu/doit/Resources/udesign.html or The Center for Universal Design in Education at www.uw.edu/doit/CUDE/. The book Universal Design in Higher Education: From Principles to Practice published by Harvard Education Press shares perspectives of UD leaders nationwide. To receive a 20% discount visit www.uw.edu/doit/UDHE/coupon.html.

About DO-IT

DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) serves to increase the successful participation of individuals with disabilities in challenging academic programs such as those in science, engineering, mathematics, and technology. Primary funding for DO-IT is provided by the National Science Foundation, the State of Washington, and the U.S. Department of Education. DO-IT is a collaboration of UW Information Technology and the Colleges of Engineering and Education at the University of Washington.

To order free publications or newsletters use the DO-IT Publications Order Form; to order videos and training materials use the Videos, Books and Comprehensive Training Materials Order Form.

For further information, to be placed on the DO-IT mailing list, request materials in an alternate format, or to make comments or suggestions about DO-IT publications or web pages contact:

DO-IT
University of Washington
Box 354842
Seattle, WA 98195-4842
doit@uw.edu
www.uw.edu/doit/
206-685-DOIT (3648) (voice/TTY)
888-972-DOIT (3648) (voice/TTY)
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Founder and Director: Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph.D.

DO-IT Funding and Partners


Acknowledgment

The contents of this publication and accompanying video were developed under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education , #P333A020044. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.

Copyright © 2012, 2008, 2007, 2005, 2003, 2001, 1999, 1997, University of Washington. Permission is granted to copy these materials for educational, noncommercial purposes provided the source is acknowledged.