Volume 26, Number 3, Fall 2004


ALA Adopts Section 508 Standards

Marilyn Irwin, ALA Councilor for ASCLA through June 2004

Shortly after the ALA electronic ballot came out, Ellen Perlow and I, Both ASCLA members, were having dinner together during a conference in California. Ellen turned to me and asked whether the ballot was accessible for people with disabilities. This conversation led to a series of events, some good and some not so good.

The first event was the discovery that the ballot wasn’t accessible for people with disabilities, particularly for those who use screen reader software. When the ALA offices became aware of this situation, ALA Executive Director Keith Fiels immediately began to pursue ways in which this could be resolved; however, little could be done with the 2004 ballot. In the meantime, a resolution was drafted to take to the ALA Council to address this issue. When I shared it with the ASCLA Board via the board’s electronic discussion group, a couple of members stated that much of ALA’s information technology (such as videos, web pages, and so on) is also not accessible. With that input, a resolution was written containing the following two clauses:

Be it resolved that: the electronic ballot in 2005 and all following years shall be accessible for people with disabilities by following the standards established by Section 508 of the federal Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998; and
Be it further resolved that: all future electronic and information technology procurement (e.g., Internet resources, telephony, captioned and audio described videos) shall also follow the standards established by Section 508.
The resolution, with the support of the ASCLA Board, went before council. It appeared on the agenda for Council I and II, but time ran out before any resolutions could be addressed. Although it looked like Council III would also run out of time, council members voted to extend the meeting for one half hour. Then, because of potential fiscal implications, it appeared that the resolution would be referred to the Budget Analysis and Review Committee (BARC) with no further action at this time; however, many council members argued that this was the right thing to do no matter what the cost, and the motion to refer the resolution to BARC was defeated. During the closing minutes of the final session of Council during the American Library Association’s 2004 Annual Conference, the full resolution passed!

Special thanks go to the ASCLA Board for their contributions to and support of the resolution, Barbara Mates for her second to the resolution, and Ellen Perlow for asking the question in the first place.