About Us -- Issues


Museums, libraries, and archives can best serve the public by making their programs and facilities as broadly accessible as possible.  This means creating opportunities that go beyond the basic requirements, and thinking expansively about how to be widely-inclusive, welcoming, and collaborative. This Web site is intended to help libraries and museums embrace the great possibilities that could be offered by cutting-edge exhibits, easily accessible physical and virtual spaces, and interactive innovative technology.

This page will be continously updated to include best practices, useful guides and materials, and examples of IMLS-funded projects that have creatively and effectively reached out to all members of communities.

IMLS Support

Through its grant and award programs, IMLS has provided support to promote accessibility and maximize inclusion at museums and libraries throughout the nation.  From improving accessibility at outdoor nature center wildlife trails, to supporting professional development for school librarians to better serve K-12 students with disabilities, to connecting the Spanish-speaking families of children with autism spectrum disorders to museum and library services, IMLS is committed to ensuring opportunities for all. 

Selected IMLS-funded Projects (PDF, 98KB)

2009 National Medal for Library Service: Braille Institute Library Services StoryCorps Interview

  A student from Laurel Regional School in Lynchburg, VA participates in an outreach program with Amazement Square.
  A student from Laurel Regional School in Lynchburg, VA participates in an outreach program with Amazement Square.

Additional accessibility content on the IMLS website:

National Medal Image
Thirty Museums and Libraries Tapped as Finalists for National Medal

February 24, 2015 09:28 AM
For 21 years, the National Medal for Museum and Library Service has celebrated institutions that demonstrate extraordinary and innovative approaches to public service to make a difference for individuals, families, and communities. Read More

Marcia Trawinski and Dottie Gibson
Blog Post: StoryCorps Interview: Chicago Public Library

February 12, 2015 11:30 AM
Marcia Trawinski, long-time member of the Chicago Public Library, talks to her friend Dottie Gibson about how adaptive services for the visually impaired have improved her relationship with books and the library. Read More

A librarian leading a program for children.
Blog Post: Wrapping Up a Year of State Library Interviews

December 17, 2014 09:56 AM
The 2014 state library blog series painted a picture of Grants to States funding, which has served as the backbone of federal support for libraries in America for more than 50 years. Read More

childrens services workshop 25 percent
Blog Post: Interview: Arkansas State Library

December 15, 2014 11:20 AM
With LSTA funds the Arkansas State Library will focus on reaching underserved audiences, providing continuing education for librarians, and supporting technology and broadband services. Read More

An ALFA fellow learns about digital Braille readers for people with visual disabilities.
June 2012: Accessible Libraries for All

Students seeking master’s degrees in library and information science at universities in Alabama and Michigan are undertaking a unique curriculum that embraces the idea of universal accessibility and service to special needs populations. Read More

Photo of two boys in a library using Talking Books.
July 2011: State Talking Book Libraries: Programs for People with Visual or Physical Disabilities

Through its Grants to State Library Administrative Agencies, the largest of all of its grant programs, IMLS provides funding to state libraries around the country to provide critical services to visually and physically impaired Americans including braille materials and recorded audiobooks also known as “talking books”. Read More

A student from Laurel School participates in an outreach program
December 2007: Museum Outreach Program Allows Kids to be Kids

To visit Amazement Square is to enter a world where art and adolescence colorfully collide. For the students of Laurel Regional School, who live with severe mental and physical disabilities, it is not your typical field trip. But an IMLS-funded program makes those trips as typical as possible. Read More



Accessibility:  International Developments

IMLS is working on the international stage to promote access for the blind and visually impaired.  As a member of the U.S. delegation to the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights, we are working to facilitate access across national borders to special format materials that can be used by people with print disabilities. For more information, see the U.S. Copyright Office Web page.


www.disability.gov, a U.S. Federal Government Web Site: Connecting the Disability Community to Information and Opportunity

American Library Association (ALA), Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA) "Library Accessibility—What You Need to Know" Toolkit Series
Fifteen tipsheets developed to help librarians in all types of libraries understand and manage access issues. 

Association for Science-Technology Centers Accessibility Resource Center

Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education: Inclusion, Disabilities, and Informal Science Learning.  A report by the CAISE Access Inquiry Group. http://caise.insci.org/news/98/51/Inclusion-Disabilities-and-Informal-Science-Learning/d,resources-page-item-detail

Design for Accessibility: A Cultural Administrators Handbook

Disabilities Access Symbols Project: Promoting Accessible Places and Programs
National Endowment for the Arts and the Graphic Artists Guild Foundation, 1993. A package of 12 graphic symbols designed to assist museums, state arts agencies, performing arts facilities, and other arts organizations advertise that their programs are accessible to senior citizens and disabled people.

Evaluate Your Organization's Accessibility: The Arts and Humanities Accessibility Checklist

Invite, Welcome, and Respect: Planning Accessible Meetings and Events

Making Accessibility Real: A Guide for Planning Meetings, Conferences and Gatherings

The Accessible Museum: Model Programs of Accessibility for Disabled and Older People
National Endowment for the Arts and the American Association of Museums, 1993. Profiles a wide variety of museums, including art, natural history, and historic museums that have exemplary accessibility programs. See www.aam-us.org for more information.

Legal References: Grant-Related Accessibility
To ensure access to its programs and compliance with the accessibility laws, the Institute of Museum and Library Services has issued a regulation, 45 C.F.R. § 1180.44(b), requiring that its grantees comply with the provisions set out at 45 C.F.R. Part 1170, titled Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Handicap in Federally Assisted Programs or Activities. These regulations are specifically intended to protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination based on their disability. An individual with disabilities ("handicapped person") is "any person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment." Read more at www.imls.gov/assets/1/AssetManager/Making MusLibAccessible.pdf

Standards for Accessible Design

In 2010, the United States Department of Justice published revised ADA regulations that update and amend part of the original 1991 ADA regulations. These changes include revised accessibility standards, called the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design (the 2010 Standards), which establish minimum criteria for accessibility in design and construction. When fully effective on March 15, 2012, the 2010 Standards will replace the 1991 ADA Standards for Accessible Design (commonly called ADAAG) and Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS) as accessibility standards for new construction, alterations, program accessibility and barrier removal under the ADA.

IMLS grant recipients are permitted, but not required, to use the 2010 Standards as an acceptable alternative to the UFAS for purposes of complying with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. IMLS deems compliance with the 2010 Standards to be an acceptable means of complying with Section 504’s accessibility requirements for new construction and alterations. However, once an IMLS grant recipient has selected an applicable accessibility standard for new construction or alterations under Section 504, that standard must be applied to the grant recipient’s entire facility.

2010 Standards: http://www.ada.gov/2010ADAstandards_index.htm
UFAS: http://www.access-board.gov/ufas/ufas-html/ufas.htm

A patron of Braille Institute Library Services in Los Angeles, CA, picks up a cassette and Braille book from a library staff member.

A patron of Braille Institute Library Services in Los Angeles, CA,
picks up a cassette and Braille book from a library staff member.