ADA & Me

For the sake of doing something less textual, I created an infographic for the basic guidelines libraries need to follow to be accessible. It’s pretty simplistic, but adds a slightly more visual aspect than straight text.

ADA Accessibility Guidelines for LibrariesNow, a lot of that doesn’t directly apply to me because I work in a library that has already been built to meet these standards. That doesn’t mean we meet all requirements for accessibility, however. In my short time at this particular library (three years), I’ve seen us replace our manual front doors with automatic doors and we’ve made headphones available to library patrons not just for listening to audio, but for those patrons who might make use of the text reader programs, like Microsoft’s Narrator. Unfortunately, that’s about as far as my library goes. We don’t have any training on accessibility issues, we don’t have accessibility notices, and we don’t have any kind of group or committee that really works on ADA compliance. Honestly, the way change seems to come about is through complaints, which is obviously the wrong way to go about it. For me, these readings have just reiterated how backwards we handle disability and ADA issues. In library school, we had people from the DC Public Library System, including their adaptive technology librarian, come and talk to us about those issues. One of the most memorable takeaways for me was when we used a screen reader to try and order pizza online. What seemed like such a simple task for someone without disabilities became extremely difficult and frustrating for someone without sight because the website hadn’t been created with accessibility in mind. This was incredibly powerful and I realized how much I don’t think about accessibility issues because they don’t directly affect me. Now I try to be much more cognizant of it with the things I do, but I’m still very much failing with it, as I know I’ve done very little to make my personal blogs accessible. Sometimes I add the alt text if I feel like it, but more often than not, I don’t. Also, for the sake of interest and this exploration, I turned on Microsoft Narrator at work and have been trying to navigate my library’s website. It’s awful – half the time all the narrator says is “Chrome legacy window” when I’m trying to access my website. It doesn’t actually read half the content that’s there! It also says “tool tip” after everything I mouse over.

I never would be able to make sense of this if I couldn’t see. Maybe part of that is due to my lack of knowledge using this program, but I also just really doubt our website is accessible. Case in point: there was no alt text for the images. Maybe some of this is due to Sharepoint being an awful program ill-suited for website creation. The real problem? I’m not sure anyone actually cares enough to do anything about it.

Now, it’s time for a story. Oh, you don’t really want to read something else? Good – let’s try another accessible option: an audio file. While I realize I could’ve simply recorded my own voice telling this story (since it is mine), I opted for a text-to-speech converter free on the web so that I could do this quickly and also so that I could choose a voice that would speak clearly and SLOWLY (something I’m not always good at). I wanted it to be the most accessible it could be. There are downsides with this, especially in pronounciation, as my computer voice refused to pronounce ADA as A-D-A and makes it sound like someone’s name. Something to keep in mind if I use this again.

Overall, I’m not saying that I’ll be able to suddenly make my library and the entire agency more compliant with ADA, but it’s important to know the extent of ADA and how it relates to my current situation. I can at least familiarize myself with the law and some of the solutions to be more compliant – like familiarizing myself with some of the adaptive technologies and tools I have access to in the library. Being informed and aware is (not quite) half the battle, but it’s certainly the least I can do.

Here’s an image of one of our exhibit cases on the 25th anniversary of the ADA!

ada lib exhibit

And here are some of the sources the ALA provides on the topic that I used:

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