Honoring the 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Sunday, July 26, marked the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to everyone. The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.

Libraries and museums are community hubs. In addition to connecting people to information, they connect people to people without discrimination. To honor 30 years of progress in access and inclusion, we are showcasing a handful of libraries that used their IMLS grants to improve spaces and access for individuals with disabilities in the last few years.

In 2018, the University of Texas at Arlington Libraries created STEAM and maker literacies activities for elementary schoolchildren with learning disabilities. With the use of project interns, they were able to provide this program to students at two local elementary schools.

They also utilized a second grant to digitize additional materials for the Texas Disability History Collection (TDHC). The TDHC website, initially funded by a TexTreasures grant in 2016, showcases Texas’s central role in the disability rights movement and reveals the impact of disability rights on ordinary people’s lives. Through this grant, the library digitized newly acquired collections and in-depth coverage of legacy collections and enabled the addition of audio description to previously digitized videos, significantly expanding accessibility for users with visual impairments.

The San Mateo County Libraries, San Jose Public Library, and San Francisco Public Library used their Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant to improve access and inclusion for people with disabilities by focusing on staff training, programming, and outreach across the region. Staff knowledge, skills, and capacity to serve customers with disabilities grew through training in disability awareness and disability justice, person-first language, universal design, inclusive story time, and programming for people with different disabilities.

The South Dakota Braille & Talking Book Library provides access to reading material in accessible formats (braille and audio) for all South Dakotans who qualify for the service. The library partners with South Dakota Services to the Blind and Visually Impaired, South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and local assistant living facilities, nursing homes, and local VA hospitals to provide talking book services to as many individuals as possible via an online database.

In North Carolina, the Durham County Library system utilized an LSTA grant to expand and improve services, spaces, and programs for individuals requiring assistive technology—an important part of the Durham County community who had previously been underserved in the library. Specifically, they created a multi-sensory environment, inclusive playroom, and mobile adaptive technology and sensory units at the Main Library branch.

The District of Columbia Public Library used LSTA funds to enhance services for deaf and hard of hearing customers and staff. This included providing American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters for library classes, programs, and meetings. Funds also were used to enhance access to computers for customers with disabilities through the purchase of new software.

For resources that your library can use to celebrate the ADA’s 30th anniversary, be sure to visit the Network of the National Library of Medicine (NNLM). Also, use #ThanksToTheADA and #ADA30 to join the conversation on social media.

LSTA State Grants