After Bonnie’s post reporting back on her SAA experience this year, I also wanted to share some things I learned from the conference. It’s been a few weeks now, so I’ll focus on two sessions that I’m still thinking through in relation to my own work related to accessibility and disability in archives. These were the popup session “Where Are We? The State of Accessibility in Archives”, particularly Hannah Rosen’s report on the 2019 Lyrasis Accessibility Survey, and the working group session “Neurodiversity in Archives” led by Eric Hung, Lydia Tang, Chris Tanguay, and Zachary Tumlin.
The 2019 Lyrasis Accessibility Survey Report is the result of a survey of GLAM institutions that gathered data related to how many institutions have policies related to online accessibility, what mandates inform these policies, and what related tools and training are available for staff. These questions were organized into the categories of content acquisition, creation, and systems. Survey responses were largely from academic libraries in the United States and indicated that while most institutions have formal or informal policies, enforcement of these policies lacks mechanisms for action, dedicated personnel, and is not consistently applied across areas within an institution. Staff knowledge related to accessibility requirements is primarily self-taught, contributing to varying levels of knowledge without defined responsibilities due to a lack of training infrastructure or standardization.
The RAC has been working to level-up our knowledge and application of digital accessibility best practices, particularly as we develop new systems as part of Project Electron, so this report definitely provides some useful information to think about strategy and sustainability.
The “Neurodiversity in Archives” working group session acted as a starting point to organize people to contribute to the development of documents related to employment issues for neurodivergent archivists including hiring, training, and retention; the physical and digital environment (for both staff and users); and collection development and description. These documents will be created over the next year to be hosted by the SAA’s new Accessibility and Disability Section. The working group also seeks to add an amendment to the “Guidelines for Accessible Archives for People with Disabilities” that addresses neurodiversity. The emphasis on both users AND archivists in this work is great to see, and I think intersects with a lot of the conversations and advocacy related to archival labor that were visible at SAA this year.