Services to Persons with Disabilities

An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights

The American Library Association recognizes that persons with disabilities are a large and often neglected part of society.  In addition to many personal challenges, some persons with disabilities face economic inequity, illiteracy, cultural isolation, and discrimination in education, employment, and the broad range of societal activities.  The library plays a catalytic role in their lives by facilitating their full participation in society.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution mandates the right of all persons to free expression and the corollary right to receive the constitutionally protected expression of others. A person's right to use the library should not be denied or abridged because of disabilities.  The library has the responsibility to provide materials “for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves.”  (See also the Library Bill of Rights.)  When information in libraries is not presented in formats that are accessible to all users, discriminatory barriers are created.

Library staff should be proactive in reaching out to persons with disabilities and facilitating provision of resources and services.  Library staff also should be aware of the available technologies and how to assist all users with library technology.  All library resources should be available in formats accessible by persons of all ages with different abilities.  These materials must not be restricted by any presuppositions about information needs, interests, or capacity for understanding.  The library should offer different, necessary modes of access to the same content using equipment, electronics, or software.  All information resources provided directly or indirectly by the library, regardless of technology, format, or method of delivery, should be readily, equally and equitably accessible to all library users.  Libraries should make every effort to support the needs of their users with disabilities and when necessary, should seek financial or other assistance to do so.

ALA recognizes that providing specialized services often requires retention of extensive patron records, such as a user's transaction histories.  Libraries assume responsibility for protecting the confidentiality of all personally identifiable information entrusted to them to perform services.

Libraries should provide training opportunities for all staff and volunteers in order to sensitize them to issues affecting persons with disabilities and to teach effective techniques for providing services for users with disabilities and for working with colleagues with disabilities.

Libraries should use strategies based upon the principles of universal design to ensure that library facilities, policies, services, and resources meet the needs of all users.  Libraries should provide a clear path for persons with disabilities to request accommodations that will enable them to participate fully in library programs and services.  Further, libraries and schools should work with persons with disabilities, agencies, organizations, and vendors to integrate assistive technology into their facilities and services to meet the needs of persons with a broad range of disabilities, including learning, mobility, sensory, and developmental disabilities.

The preamble to the Library Bill of Rights states, “all libraries are forums for information and ideas.”  By removing the physical, technological, and procedural barriers to accessing those forums, libraries promote the full inclusion of persons with disabilities into our society.

ALA related policy: 54.3.2 Library Services for People with Disabilities

Adopted January 28, 2009, by the ALA Council.