Accessibility and Library Instruction

by Sara Maurice Whitver, Assistant Professor/Coordinator of Library Instruction, University Libraries

Gorgas libraryAnyone who teaches knows that disability is present in our classrooms. As you get to know your students throughout the semester, you collectively work on learning strategies and develop a relationship that supports a productive classroom environment that helps your students achieve their learning goals.

This relationship building is critical to understanding the learning needs of your students and helps you gain insight into the possible alternative ways of achieving the learning that is taking place throughout the semester.

But what would this look like if you didn’t have a semester to build this relationship? One thing is certain: it would be challenging.

Librarians work to accomplish a lot in the one or two library instruction sessions that you schedule for your class, but sometimes the activities that are planned turn out to be inaccessible to some of our students. We want to change this. It is important to us that all of our students are able to fully participate in the learning that takes place during library instruction.

In Fall 2019, the Libraries’ will start including accessibility statements as part of the process for instructors who are requesting library instruction. We have been working with the Office of Disability Services to craft these statements so that we can partner with you to make our instruction sessions more hospitable to all of our students. In the coming semester, you are encouraged to share information about accommodations you are making in the classroom.

You will never be asked to identify specific students or infringe on your students’ right to privacy. However, you can let your librarian know things, like

  • In my class this semester, I have a student who’s accommodations include advanced copies of handouts and classroom materials.
  • In my class, I have a note-taker.
  • In my class, I have a student who is accompanied by a transcriptionist.
  • I have a student in my class who uses a wheelchair.
  • I have a student in my class who reads lips.
  • I have a student in my class who benefits from extra time for assignments.

It is likely that you will not know these details when you submit your request for instruction, but remember to communicate any needs that arise as your session date draws closer. We will do our best to ask you about any needs that you are aware of, and to describe the types of activities we are planning for your sessions. Your librarian wants to do everything they can to make the library instruction environment as hospitable and accessible for all of our students.

If you would like more information about our accessibility efforts, or if you have an experience that you would like to share with us, please send me an email (smwhitver@ua.edu) and we can chat! I’d love to hear from you about things you’ve learned about making your classrooms accessible.