Pathfinders: Disability Access Committee

Submitted by Ila Langner on Wed, 03/10/2021 - 10:00 PM
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Pathfinder is a series of blogs about intrepid library staff who are leading interesting programs that you may not yet know about.

San Jose Public Library, as a department in the City of San Jose, seeks to promote inclusivity for all of its citizens and to provide equal access without barriers to all of its materials.

Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month (DDAM.) The purpose of DDAM is to “raise awareness about the inclusion of people with developmental disabilities in all facets of community life, as well as awareness of the barriers that people with disabilities still sometimes face in connecting to the communities in which they live.”

The purpose of DDAM perfectly syncs with the Library's role in promoting inclusion and providing equal access.

The face of inclusion and access is the Library's Disability Access Committee. Though primarily a behind-the-scenes entity, DAC is an important committee within the Library. I spoke to Emily Lowell, senior lead for this committee. DAC members include (in alphabetical order): Aasia Ali, Karla Alvarez, Victoria Coverson-Baxter, Lisa Giannotti, Rebekah Gonzalez, Dawn Imada, Rosalinda Savercool, Kerry Sherman, and myself. Deputy Director of Operations Jenny Choi provides executive leadership team oversight for DAC committee work.

Background of the Disability Access Committee

Previously known as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Committee, the DAC Committee has been established within the Library for a number of years.

Library staff have worked with other library systems in the Bay Area on disabilities work for many years. Former manager Sandra Stewart was an important advocate for people with disabilities in the late aughts until her retirement. She worked with retired librarian Ed Koetitz and I (who had independently created our own Inclusive Storytimes) to make Inclusive Storytimes a system-wide program. Stewart wanted to enhance the Library's service to teens and adults with disabilities by starting INSIDERS in 2016. San Jose Public Library has had a presence in ADA work for decades.

Currently, Emily leads the DAC Committee with the intention of enhancing accessibility for library customers with disabilities. This includes strategic planning and creation of services and programs that specifically serve those with disabilities. She has been an active voice for people with disabilities and has filled in the gap that Stewart left when she retired.

Emily would like library customers to know that the Library is:

  • "finding ways to be more inclusive
  • seeking ways to enhance access and remove barriers for customers with disabilities,
  • and listening to the community about what they need."

What the DAC has Accomplished This Past Year

Emily shares:

"In early 2020, Emily and Jenny saw a need for American Sign Language (ASL) to be added to the list of languages included in the city's bilingual pay program. They set out working on establishing an evaluation process for ASL. Through a collaboration with faculty from San Jose State University's Deaf Studies program, Emily and Kerry were the first library employees to be evaluated and approved as ASL bilingual speakers. It was a positive step in addressing a resource need for the ASL community, as well as expanding opportunities in this area for library and city employees. Hopefully, more will follow.

The DAC committee has also streamlined the process of requesting ADA accommodations at the library by creating and promoting a central email address for such requests and training all staff to alert DAC members of accommodation requests through this single email channel.

Another area that the committee has been focused on is staff awareness and engagement around accessibility. The DAC committee created an internal SharePoint page for library staff to utilize for simple questions and quick reference. They hope to add training resources to this page to continue fostering disability and accessibility awareness among library staff.

During the pandemic, production of San Jose Public Library videos has increased exponentially. One of the positive aspects of providing programs through recorded videos is that the Library can provide closed captioning services. Since YouTube's closed captioning are autogenerated, there are some translation errors. DAC has created a team, which includes library volunteers, that utilizes YouTube Studio to rewrite autogenerated transcripts that meet DAC's quality standard for closed captioning and request-ready transcripts."

DAC Current Assignments

DAC members work in several sub-committees. Each sub-committee is working on various tasks to improve inclusion and access for you!

  • Technical: Rosalinda and Kerry continue to improve the quality standards for program transcripts and add closed captioning to videos. Sign up to volunteer as a Virtual Transcript Editor.
  • Programming: Aasia, Rebekah, and I are working on the calendar for staff members and creating a book club for people with developmental disabilities. Victoria is hosting an INSIDERs Virtual story time every Friday (30 min) with Mission Bay. For the younger children, please check out my Inclusive Storytime every Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. on the Early Education unit's Facebook page.
  • Collections: Rosalinda, Lisa, and Dawn are working to build collections that aid customers with disabilities to access our collections.
  • Staff Awareness and Engagement in Disabilities Work: Victoria and Rebekah are working to improve staff communication on our internal Disability Access Committee site.
  • Data Collection: Karla is working with Emily to learn more about the local disability community and maximize participation of library customers with disabilities in library programs, services, and collections.

Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments below!

Blog Category
Adult Nonfiction


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