Libraries and the Internet Toolkit

Access for People with Disabilities

According to the Census Bureau Survey of Income and Participation (2002), 51.2 million people in the non-institutionalized population had some level of disability. People of all ages, in all racial and ethnic groups and all socioeconomic groups have disabilities:
  • 18.1% of the population
  • 8.4% of people under age 15
  • 19.4% of people ages 45 – 54
  • 38.4% of people ages 65 – 69
  • 71.7% of people ages 80+ 
Therefore, it is extremely important that librarians develop accessibility policies that will ensure access to electronic resources and information technology. A thoughtful and comprehensive accessibility policy demonstrates a library's commitment to meet the needs of all patrons. A well-drafted policy identifies how the library intends to accommodate the needs of patrons and employees with disabilities and establishes specific procedures for responding to requests in a timely manner.
When drafting an Internet and computer use policy for people with disabilities, consider including all the sections in the ALA policy 54.3.2 “Library Services for People with Disabilities” (and “Services to People with Disabilities:  An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights”).
Here are a few suggestions to consider when creating or updating your policies:
  • Make the policy easy to read, understand, and find on your Web site.
  • Provide regular training and support regarding accessibility issues, policies, and guidelines to staff members and users. 
  • Promote your policy in employee communications as well as user communications. 
  • Update your policy as needed to stay current with changes in your library practices.
  • Regularly evaluate the use of accessible electronic and information technology in the library. 
  • Develop procedures for responding quickly to requests for adaptive technologies that remove barriers to access for people with disabilities. Apply accessibility policies, procedures, and standards that will assure that such requests are kept to a minimum.
  • Train your staff to be welcoming and sensitive.