On the third annual Global Accessibility Awareness Day (#GAAD), May 15, 2014, the Association of Research Libraries launched a new resource for the library community—a Web Accessibility Toolkit for research libraries. ARL’s toolkit shares the fundamental goal of GAAD which is to ”raise the profile” of digital accessibility and provide resources for improving access to information to “the broadest audience possible.” The toolkit aims to:
- Promote the principles of accessibility, universal design, and digital inclusion.
- Help research libraries achieve digital accessibility.
- Connect research libraries with the tools, people, and examples they need to provide accessible digital content.
The lead author on the Web Accessibility Toolkit was Molly Schwartz, a member of the inaugural class of the National Digital Stewardship Residency (NDSR) program who was in residence at ARL in 2013–2014. The NDSR program is a deeply valuable partnership between the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Library of Congress. The mission of NDSR “is to build a dedicated community of professionals who will advance our nation’s capabilities in managing, preserving, and making accessible the digital record of human achievement. This will enable current and future generations to fully realize the potential of digital resources now and for years to come.”
Since the inaugural NDSR class was selected to work in Washington, DC–area institutions, the program has been extended to New York and Boston. More information on these new fellowship opportunities is available on the NDSR website.
ARL’s engagement on issues relating to accessibility includes providing resources to ARL member libraries—such as the Report of the ARL Joint Task Force on Services to Patrons with Print Disabilities (PDF)—and strongly advocating over a number of years at the World Intellectual Property Organization for a treaty for the visually impaired, which was approved in June 2013. The “Marrakesh Treaty” will significantly improve access to books for millions of people who are blind, visually impaired, and print disabled. ARL hopes its new Web Accessibility Toolkit will help libraries continue to improve access to resources for all of their patrons, regardless of ability or disability.