SPEC Kit 321: Services for Users with Disabilities · 11
Executive Summary
When ARL last gathered information from member
libraries about services for users with disabilities more
than 10 years ago, several trends emerged. There were
a growing number of library users with a broad range
of disabilities. While physical access to libraries was
improving, more work remained, particularly in older
buildings. Assistive technology was prevalent, but
equipment maintenance could be an issue. And staff
training and attitudes were the weak link in the ser-
vice chain.
This survey sought to better understand library
services for users with disabilities today and how
accessibility has changed for them in the complex en-
vironments of ARL libraries. It explored what services
are being provided and how users are made aware of
them what assistive technologies are being offered to-
day and who maintains them which library staff have
responsibility for providing services and how are they
trained and what service policies and procedures are
in place for users with disabilities. The survey was
conducted between August 23 and October 15, 2010.
Sixty-two of the 125 ARL member libraries completed
the survey for a response rate of 50%.
Library Staff Assistance
All of the responding libraries provide assistance with
retrieving books and other materials from the library
stacks. All but a few help users with disabilities to
search the catalog and other online resources, and to
copy, scan, or print library materials. Some provide de-
livery service to buildings on campus, assistance with
adaptive equipment, and directional assistance for us-
ers with visual impairment. Library staff will also or-
der alternative format textbooks or special equipment,
if needed. A significant number of respondents also of-
fer proxy borrowing cards and extended loan periods.
While it is common that students first register with
their university’s office of disabilities services to ob-
tain a referral for library assistance, almost all of the
responding libraries report that users may approach
any service desk to request assistance or may request
an appointment by phone or e-mail. About half of the
respondents also have an online request form about
a quarter have a special service desk.
Workspace Accommodations
Workspace accommodations are quite varied among
the respondents. A majority of the responding librar-
ies (52 or 84%) provide height adjustable workstations,
a relatively inexpensive solution and a minimal ac-
commodation for people who are in wheelchairs or
who simply need adjustable furniture. One library
mentioned that all of their study carrels and tables are
wheelchair accessible. Thirty-seven respondents (60%)
provide some kind of assistive technology on their
general-purpose public computers (several mentioned
the Microsoft accessibility package and/or Zoom Text)
and well over half provide workstations in a quiet or
separate workspace of some kind.
Other workspace accommodations include circula-
tion of special equipment and laptops outfitted with
specialized software, accommodation for seeing-eye
dogs, light dimmers and window blinds, improved
lighting for less reflection and better color rendering,
sound-proofed or non-quiet rooms for dictation, and
voice recognition tools.
As might be expected, given the range of size of
the responding libraries and differing models of col-
laboration with campus disability offices, the number
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