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:

The design team working with veteran Lisa Marie Wiley on the quick switch apparatus at the competition.
Blog Post: Learning Labs Put 3D Printing Skills to the Test to Improve Lives for Veterans in Virginia

August 19, 2015 12:58 PM
Virginia teens teamed up with the Science Museum of Virginia’s the YOUmedia Learning Lab for a Make-a-thon hosted by the Department of Veteran Affairs. Their award-winning prototype, a 3D printed socket, will make it possible for veterans to easily switch and wear different prostheses. Read More

Participants sitting in a circle brainstorming
Blog Post: Convening Communities for Good: On the Frontier of 3D Printing for Accessible Education

July 27, 2015 04:18 PM
With the help of an IMLS Grant, Benetech convened a national forum to discuss how 3D printing technology and services can be used for accessible education materials. Read More

Senior women creating a scrapbook
Blog Post: Putting Seniors at the Center

July 22, 2015 02:48 PM
Museums and libraries have a role to play in promoting healthy aging, independent living, and community involvement for seniors. Read More

Accessible icon white on blue
Blog Post: Quick Ideas for Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the ADA this July

July 17, 2015 01:10 PM
In honor of the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Wisconsin Division of Libraries lists ways libraries can observe the anniversary and provides resources on disability history. Read More

Blog Post: Meeting Community Needs: A Veteran’s Success Story

June 25, 2015 03:11 PM
Cecil County Public Library helped a U.S. Army Veteran who faced homeless, unemployment, and health challenges, gain computer literacy skills and apply for a job online. 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.