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ARL Publishes Report on Services to Patrons with Print Disabilities

ARL has released the report (PDF) of its Joint Task Force on Services to Patrons with Print Disabilities, scheduled for final publication later this month in Research Libraries Issues(RLI). ARL formed the task force in May 2012 to expand upon the ongoing work of the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA), of which ARL is a member, in support of an international instrument for the print disabled that is under active consideration by the World International Copyright Organization (WIPO).

According to Winston Tabb, ARL Past President and Dean of University Libraries and Museums at the Johns Hopkins University, “The ARL report clearly articulates the need for collaborative actions by all campus partners to address the information accessibility interests of the print disabled. This becomes especially important as the momentum behind international deliberations on this issue is accelerating.”

Print disabilities prevent some users from effectively reading print information resources because of visual, physical, perceptual, developmental, cognitive, or learning disabilities. The ARL report contains nine recommendations for research libraries to better align their services with the mission to make information accessible to their full range of diverse users equitably. In particular, the report focuses on critical partnerships necessary to fully exploit the opportunities of digital information resources to open an unprecedented quantity of information to print-disabled patrons. For example, the report’s first recommendation states:

The growing demand for instructional e-content and burgeoning digital library collections requires greater collaboration amongst all institutional partners, including academic leadership, research libraries, disability services, and information technology services. These partners should share knowledge, define roles, and become knowledgeable about print disabilities, in order to effectively serve users, to meet the requirements of federal and provincial law, to fulfill institutional mission, and to move the market.

There are also specific, practical recommendations for individual institutions to improve responsiveness and organizational capacity to address the needs of the print-disabled community more effectively. “The measures recommended by the task force are ethically imperative and legally required,” said Mary M. Case, task force chair and University Librarian and Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Case stated that by combining the principles of universal design with research libraries’ support for open content, libraries could achieve accessibility and improve services for all patrons.

Research libraries license, acquire, and produce vast digital information resources from many publishers, vendors, and discovery and delivery platforms. Unlike commercial enterprises, libraries have a legal requirement to provide information in accessible formats. ARL believes that research libraries are poised to provide critical direction along with academic leadership, IT, and disability services on the service and technology planning, procurement, and licensing necessary to create a fully accessible information environment.

To read the report, please visit http://www.arl.org/accessibility/.

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 125 research libraries in the US and Canada. Its mission is to influence the changing environment of scholarly communication and the public policies that affect research libraries and the diverse communities they serve. ARL pursues this mission by advancing the goals of its member research libraries, providing leadership in public and information policy to the scholarly and higher education communities, fostering the exchange of ideas and expertise, facilitating the emergence of new roles for research libraries, and shaping a future environment that leverages its interests with those of allied organizations. ARL is on the web at http://www.arl.org/.