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New Report Looks at the Accessibility of Libraries; Grant Opportunity Available

October 28, 2022
Source: American Library Association (ALA)

The American Library Association (ALA), in collaboration with the non-profit research organization Knology, has published a review of the literature and best practices around libraries and accessibility.

The free report, “Accessibility in Libraries: A Landscape Report,” is created as part of ALA’s longtime Libraries Transforming Communities initiative.

In its 31 pages, the report explores:

  • the different ways disability has been understood and defined over time (the “medical model” vs. the “social model”)
  • the history of accessibility in U.S. libraries, dating back to the 19th century
  • the current landscape of accessibility and its different applications in library settings today
  • the resources that are available and most commonly used to include people with different kinds of disabilities into library programs and services

Read the report online.

Libraries have a long history of working toward creating accessible spaces and materials for their disabled and neurodivergent patrons; as early as the mid-1800s, U.S. libraries were producing print materials for the blind. However, libraries today face a number of challenges when it comes to incorporating accessibility into their services and spaces, including limited resources and time, lack of awareness, and lack of training.

In March 2022, ALA announced plans to distribute more than $7 million in grants to small and rural libraries to increase the accessibility of facilities, services and programs to better serve people with disabilities.

Beginning November 1, the ALA Public Programs Office will accept applications for grants in the amount of $10,000 and $20,000. The opportunity, Libraries Transforming Communities: Accessible Small and Rural Communities, is open to any type of library in the U.S. and U.S. territories that serves a small and rural community.

Participating libraries will first conduct community input-gathering sessions to assure that their work aligns with local needs. Libraries will be required to identify the primary audience they are hoping to reach (e.g., homebound seniors, children with autism, deaf community members) and facilitate a community conversation with the impacted populations in order to guide improvement of the library’s services. Grantees will then use the funds to create services or improve their facilities based on the needs identified by their audience.

To be notified when Libraries Transforming Communities: Accessible Small and Rural Communities applications open, or to be notified about future opportunities from the ALA Public Programs Office, sign up for ALA’s Programming Librarian newsletter.

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