Accessibility central to Library work

October is Disability Employment Awareness Month — and marks 30 years since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA is civil rights legislation, originally passed in 1990, which led to marked improvements for equal access and opportunity for individuals with disabilities. While we still have a long way to go in working for equity, the ADA was a historic step forward which has continued to evolve over these past three decades.

At the Library, diligent staff work to ensure that resources in person and online are accessible to all — often aiming for more than the minimum required by law, and tapping into concepts such as Universal Design, which seeks to ensure access, understanding, and use to the greatest extent possible by all people. The Library also has a close relationship with Accessibility Partners at UVA, and hosts robust guidelines on the web for how content creators — in the classroom, public events, and in day to day life — can make their material more usable for all. Importantly, the site hosts rich information about ensuring accessibility for Zoom sessions, which has become all the more relevant in recent months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to campus partnerships, Library units facilitating multimedia access work to ensure that tools used in the classroom are accessible through captions, transcripts, and more — something that is in no way guaranteed by content distributors. Information about accessibility through the Library and beyond can be found in Accessibility Services on the Library’s website.

In addition to day-to-day accessibility, the Library is also working to advance the cause of access in ways that benefit individuals beyond the confines of our University. One major example is the “Educational Materials Made Accessible” project — a grant funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in 2019. The project, formally titled “Federating Repositories of Accessible Materials for Higher Education” seeks to reduce duplication of remediation efforts across participating universities, thus decreasing the turnaround time for delivering accessible texts to students and faculty. The pilot program involves six other universities and takes advantage of services made available through HathiTrust, Bookshare, and The Internet Archive — all of which contribute to critical infrastructure for the project. Learn more about the EMMA project.

Passage of the ADA in 1990 was only the beginning. The UVA Library pursues active inclusion every day, and seeks to further the causes of true accessibility through our services to our community and beyond.

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