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GELS: Growing Equitable Library Services

Resources related to the GELS series

ADA and Beyond

Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law in 1990, with additional amendments in 2009. This landmark civil rights law prohibits discrimination based on disability and imposes accessibility requirements on public accommodations, including libraries. The primary government resource on the ADA is www.ada.govTitle II of the law applies to municipal and state-funded libraries. Title III of the law applies to businesses and non-profits, including association libraries.

ADA stands for the Americans with Disabilities Act. Within the library world, immediate thoughts that may come to mind with regards to ADA tend to revolve around ramps, elevators, and spacing between bookshelves to accommodate wheelchairs.  However, making sure that library spaces, programs, and services are accessible requires more. 

The GELS ADA and Beyond series was created to ensure that libraries are planning to support all needs. 

JJ Pionke

JJ Pionke is the Applied Health Sciences Librarian at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  He is an award-winning librarian whose research revolves around disability and accessibility for library patrons and employees.  His most recent work focuses on the educational and competency needs of library science graduate students and current library employees in regards to disability and accessibility in libraries.

Digital Accessibility

How accessible is your website really? We talked about digital accessibility for our websites, how to test for accessibility, what the standards are for accessibility, and how accessible our databases actually are.

Slides and resources:

  • Kenning Arlitsch (Column Editor) (2018) My User is a Machine: Making Information Accessible to Disabled Users by Structuring for Machine Intermediaries, Journal of Library Administration, 58:7, 728-738, DOI: 10.1080/01930826.2018.1514834

Accessible Documents: Word and PowerPoint

See someone squinting at the instruction sheet in front of the printer? Let's talk about how to make documents accessible both in paper and digitally. This session focused on Word and PowerPoint though the principles discussed can be applied to competitor software.

Disability Accommodations in the Library Workplace

This virtual session focused on what the Americans with Disabilities Act says about workplace accommodations, what are accommodations and why they aren't special perks, and what the general process might look like to get an accommodation.  

Disability 101

This virtual session with JJ Pionke was a broad introduction to disability, accessibility, and the law with a specific focus on libraries. 

ADA and Beyond: Making Programs Accessible for All

This panel discussion featured Arlene Lugo from CT Tech Act Project, Maria Jacovino from the American School for the Deaf, Mary Silverberg from the National Federation of the Blind of CT and CT Library for Accessible Books, and Smita Worah from the State Education Resource Center. Together, they discussed typical types of library programs and how to make them more accessible and welcoming for everyone.

Accessibility Is More than a Ramp: Reducing & Interrupting Disability Bias in the Library

This workshop took a light-hearted approach to recognizing and interrupting disability-based bias in ourselves and others. Participants learned about respectful disability language and etiquette and had the opportunity to ask questions they have always wanted to ask about disability and disability issues.

Melissa Marshall is a Connecticut attorney nationally known for her expertise in disability civil rights law and her bias awareness workshops.  Melissa is a person with a disability who infuses humor and informality into her workshops and is personally acquainted with many of the issues she addressed in this presentation.   

Additional information from Melissa Marshall

Inclusive Storytimes- Strategies and Implementation Tips

The Connecticut State Library (CSL) and the Connecticut State Education Resource Center (SERC) partnered for this workshop on Inclusive Story Time. Inclusion is essential to creating a high-quality experience for all young patrons who visit the library. How do we ensure that all who attend our story times can fully engage in and enjoy the experience? One way to do this is by implementing a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and its respective networks: Engagement, Representation, and Expression.

In this video, we cover the brain science of UDL and link it to what the science of reading tells us happens in a developing reader's brain. We discuss why and how story time can be accessible to all. Participants learn assistive technology strategies to implement inclusive story time.


This project is funded by the State of Connecticut and the Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered by the Connecticut State Library. 

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