Session 208: Providing Access to Collections for People with disabilities

Session 208: Providing Access to Collections for People with Disabilities

Last but not least, Session 208: Providing Access to Collections for People with Disabilities. This blog post was delayed due to the flooding in central Louisiana. I left the Archivio di Louisiana on Thursday, August 11 in order to travel to New Orleans for two appointments. The plan was for me to return the night of August 15, which was a Monday. Expecting to return, I left my notes at the Archivio di Louisiana. But the good Lord had other plans. See, we received some extremely bad weather and areas in Central Louisiana flooded. So the good Commissioner of Administration closed the state offices in East Baton Rouge Parish as well as about twenty other parishes for one week and one day.

I presented during Session 208 at the Annual Conference of the Society of American Archivist in Atlanta. The session started at 2pm and ended at 3:15pm. I had trouble working the MAC computer and reading my presentation at the same time. Thankfully my fellow presenter Lydia Tang realized this and took over the operation of the computer.

I thought my presentation went well. I was not nervous speaking in front of everyone, but this was not my first rodeo. I had two other conference presentations under my belt. Also, during one of my archival classes, I had to give a one hour presentation in front of the class as well as ask the class questions. As I gave that presentation, I wondered if they were interested in what I had to say, were they falling asleep on me, and why were they not answering my questions. I told Dr. Dow after that presentation, I knew how she felt. Since I made it out of that presentation alive, I knew I could give a 15 minute presentation at SAA even though it was my first presentation at a national conference.

As I listened to my fellow presenters, I learned quite a bit. You will have to forgive me because I do not remember who said what. I just took notes.

One thing that was mentioned was making sure that the websites and PowerPoints one creates are readable. It was mentioned to use a Serif Font (such as Aerial), use at least a 12 size font, use left align, provide a text alternative for each image, and use white space throughout the page. Also, the color of the font and background should contrast each other. Previously, I never noticed the difficulty in reading text that is displayed on a screen. After this session, I noticed how difficult it was to read PowerPoints where the text blended in with the background color. Don’t get me wrong, the PowerPoints were created beautifully and the colors matched. But it was hard to read the text since the colors did not contrast each other.

A second thing that was mentioned was training staff in regards to working with people who have disabilities. Just because a person has a disability does not mean they cannot do something. In other words don’t make assumptions about what the person can or cannot do. We need to promote a culture of accessibility and one way to do that is learning how to interact with people with disabilities.

A third thing that was mentioned was to make sure the museum text panels are readable.  Just because you can read the text does not mean someone else can. It was also mentioned to make sure the exhibit gallery is bright enough for people to read the text panels without causing artifacts to be damaged by the lights.

A fourth thing that was mentioned was having a sign language interpreter for people with hearing impairments or something written in Brail for people with visual problems. For example at one repository, they had a program where they knew that people with visual problems would be attending. So, the repository had material printed in Brail for these guest.

Tweets about my presentation

-in exhibit, when multiple videos play at one time, can compete for your hearing. Especially problematic if you have a hearing loss
-Adapting exhibit tours for those w/ visual impairment. Lots of description needed. Willingness to allow visitors to touch items
-Sometimes you need to make exceptions to the “no touching” rules with exhibits

Tweets about the session

-Lisa Snider reminds us that finding aids are archival documents. They need to be accessible to.
-Try one thing. Even if you just try one thing it makes your content more accessible and you can really change the world.
-Layout/design tips: use white space, keep paragraphs short, align text to left
-Remember people are accessing material on computer, on smart phones, on tablets and all have there own accessibility issues
-WebAim: web accessibility in mind. Tool that looks for web accessibility issues on your website
-Smithsonian has guidelines for accessible exhibits
-Those of without challenges don’t notice barriers
-Researcher who lost sight no longer visits archives due to expectation of lack of support for reading docs
-Digital exhibits are not useful it not accessible

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