An excerpt from The ADA Library Kit, an ASCLA publication that is out of print.
Following its formation in 1992, the first activity of the ASCLA/Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Assembly was to collect sample library produced ADA-related documents. The Assembly is composed of representatives of various ALA divisions and acts as a clearinghouse for information concerning ADA issues. In response to the Assembly's call for materials, libraries contributed their survey forms, transition plans, public notices, and accessibility brochures—as well as policies and procedures.
None of these documents is necessarily a model, nor will they be appropriate for every library. However, they will be helpful for libraries that are looking for examples of specific documents and formats as they initiate or revise their own ADA implementation plans.
As library managers are realizing, complying with the provisions of the ADA is an ongoing process. As a library adds programs, materials, and services and builds or remodels facilities, it will be making continuous changes to ADA plans. There is no major decision for library planning that is not impacted by the ADA.
This publication is subdivided into types of documents. An explanation of each type is given below.
ADA Advisory Groups
Libraries often form an ADA Advisory Group to assist the library with decisions in the implementation process. It is composed primarily of persons with disabilities, as well as key library staff and individuals who provide community services for persons with disabilities. This is usually an on-going group that helps to set priorities, review actions, and plan implementation strategies. Groups are also used to conduct facility access surveys, review building plans for new construction, and to train staff.
Many libraries have surveyed persons with disabilities to help determine library disability problems. Some surveys are lengthy—covering all aspects of library service—while others are shorter with more open-ended questions. Surveys are distributed in libraries and through support groups, disability organizations, and community agencies providing services for people with disabilities. This is often an initial step for a library and helps to identify persons who might want to be involved with other activities related to improving library access.
Another information gathering activity is holding public meetings where persons with disabilities can share their concerns about library access. Since many people with disabilities have transportation problems—many communities still have inadequate paratransit systems—this is not always a well attended event. The most successful ones have been held at independent living centers and other sites where transportation has already been provided by another agency. Meetings must be held in an accessible facility with appropriate accommodations available for persons who need them.
Policies and Procedures
Each library should adopt a general policy statement that affirms its support of equal access for persons with disabilities and the ADA. This is the first thing that federal departments responsible for ADA request to see when investigating a complaint.
The library should also set up an internal grievance procedure for acting on patron complaints. This can include a suggestion/complaint form as well as a process for responding to those complaints. A simple procedure is easiest for patrons and staff to follow.
These are prepared by every library and identify the specific access problems that they have noted with their facilities, services, and programs. They also outline the process that the library will use to correct any deficiencies. While some go into more detail than others, they all basically include: a description of necessary action, the person responsible for carrying out the action, the estimated cost, and the estimated time frame to complete.
A vital component of any ADA implementation plan is the training that is provided for staff. While a thorough knowledge of the provisions of the ADA is important for some positions, training should center on service attitudes, communication skills, and internal policies and procedures. Patrons with disabilities—often drawn from the ADA Advisory Group—are usually the most effective trainers.
Library publications should include a standard statement that describes the library's accessibility policy and how patrons can obtain assistance. In addition, text telephone (TTY) numbers should appear where voice phone numbers are listed, on library letterhead, business cards, lists of branch/campus libraries, newsletters, and fliers advertising library events.
Accessibility Brochures and Fliers
These brochures describe the features that the library provides to make its services, materials, and facilities accessible. They must be available in alternative formats as well as large print, the preferred format for all printed materials. Some libraries have produced one general brochure while others have created several, focusing on specific disability needs such as building access or resources for persons with visual or hearing disabilities.
A Note About Language
Whenever one group struggles to react to the needs of another group, the language employed varies in sensitivity. Persons with disabilities are working to assume control over their own metaphors and find many labels and descriptions offensive. Some insensitive terminology is present in this publication:
- disabled students, the blind, the disabled
(Use "person-first" language that stresses the person first and then the adjective: students with disabilities. Never identify people solely by their disability.)
- handicapped accessibility, handicapped parking
(Accessibility or access is better. Try disability parking.)
- physically challenged, differently abled, mobility-limited
(These euphemisms are cutesy and artificial.)
- specialized equipment, special needs
(Individuals with disabilities are tired of the "special" label. Try "assistive technology" and drop words like special that are not really needed.)
- wheelchair bound, "wheelchair" to indicate a person using a wheelchair
(Instead, use has a wheelchair, uses a wheelchair, or in a wheelchair.)
No matter how sensitive we believe our language to be, the final arbiter is the person or group we are addressing.