Volume 27, Number 3, Fall 2005

President's Message: Progress and Challenges in Providing Equitable Services

It has always bothered me that some people have been able to use library services totally anonymously while others have had to come forward and reveal their challenges in order for us to provide them the services they need. At my university, all disability services are housed in a suite on the third floor, staffed by a single person. If someone has a physical or learning disability, they need to find this service in order to be accommodated or to receive access to specialized equipment and academic support services. Accommodation for library services has not been anonymous, and individuals who want to use alternative methods for accessing our information services must identify their needs for us to be able to serve them. While the Americans with Disabilities Act has encouraged development of specialized services, we are a long way from having totally integrated accessibility to our library collections and services.

July 26, 2005 marked the 15th anniversary of the passage of ADA. This landmark legislation established a legally recognized standard and terminology for describing and addressing accessibility needs. As a result, civil rights were formally extended to people with disabilities, and organizations were put on notice that they were required to provide equitable access to all people they serve.

As a profession, we embrace the underlying values of diversity and of equity of service to all. As we attempt to meet the needs of our diverse publics, we are challenged to serve people with a variety of needs and skills, ranging from diverse reading capacity, information literacy, and computer literacy to physical and mental challenges.

ASCLA as an organization is a leader in promoting quality services for all and for developing standards for quality service delivery. Thanks to our ALA Councilor Cindy Roach, the ALA Council unanimously adopted a resolution establishing March 13 to April 15 as National Deaf History Month. This resolution urges President Bush to declare these dates to be National Deaf History Month and “to call upon public officials, educators, and librarians to celebrate with programs and activities to highlight and honor the many contributions of the deaf community to American society.”

Over the past 15 years, library services have moved rapidly from traditional hard-copy services to also include a wide variety of Web-based and visual formats. Each of these individual services creates their own challenges for being equitably provided and accessible to our users. In this issue, Barbara Mates’ article clearly explains issues surrounding service delivery; Marilyn Irwin provides information about the accessibility standards found in Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act; and Mimi McCain describes how the Special Needs Center at the Phoenix Public Library addresses equal access.