Wednesday, August 17, 2016

#WeNeedDiverseBooks and Reading about Disability

Last month, I read an incredible article by Corinne Duyvis entitled Navigating Criticism and Discussions of Disability Representation from the Disability in Kidlit Blog.  Some of Duyvis' other articles I have found equally insightful include Disability Metaphors in Sci-Fi and Fantasy, Happy Endings and Overcoming Autism, and The State of Disability on Book Covers.  I have also found this interview with her particularly compelling. I keep going back to her posts because they are insightful, well-written, and challenge me to reflect upon disability representation in ways I perhaps would not--and in many ways, cannot--consider as someone who does not self-identify as disabled.  In our current library landscape where #WeNeedDiverseBooks is more than just a hashtag, it is increasingly important for librarians to advocate and champion diversity in representation in children's and young adult literature.  This is why the Disability in Kidlit Blog is such an invaluable resource to the library community. in Kidlit is dedicated to discussing the portrayal of disability in middle grade and young adult literature. As explained on their website, this team of authors publishes articles, reviews, interviews, and discussions examining this topic from various angles—and always from the disabled perspective. One of their main goals is to help readers, booksellers, librarians, and educators find good portrayals of disability in literature, specifically YA and Middle Grade novels.  They do that by discussing books via reviews and articles written by those who self identify as disabled. may have seen the recent "Perspectives of Authors with Disabilities" series (parts one and two) published on the We Need Diverse Books website.  What makes Disability in Kidlit crucial to the We Need Diverse Books conversation? They believe that a thoughtful portrayal of disability requires more than memorizing a list of symptoms.  They want to share disabled people’s thoughts on stereotypes, pet peeves, portrayals, and their own day-to-day experiences.  And by doing so, they aim to help readers learn about the realities of disability.  We Need Diverse Books helps to promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people, and in my eyes, Disability in Kidlit does just that by promoting authenticity, accuracy, and respect.

So often we hear that books should be both windows and mirrors expanding and reflecting our unique experiences through literature.  By starting dialogue and encouraging conversation, Disability in Kidlit wants to ensure that books mirror back an accurate, respectful, and honorable portrayal of characters with disabilities.  The truth is that this can be a difficult conversation for librarians to have.  But as Duyvis says in her article, "The more people genuinely listen to multiple opinions instead of becoming defensive, the more they will understand the underlying roots of the criticism."  So, let us listen, be conscious, and encourage deep and meaningful conversation.  Only then can we hope to connect, respect, and learn to understand each other. 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

NEW Online Course: Intro to Accessibility and Universal Design in Libraries

Instructor: Carli Spina
Dates: September 5-30, 2016
Credits: 1.5 CEUs
Price: $175

Approximately 15% of the population worldwide live with some type of disability, making individuals with disabilities an important and often underserved constituency for libraries. Despite this, many libraries overlook simple and affordable measures that could improve their accessibility.

In this course, you will learn concrete techniques for improving your library’s accessibility for individuals with a wide range of disabilities. You will learn the meaning of accessibility and universal design and how these apply in a library setting through a combination of readings, hands-on exercises, online discussions, and demonstration videos. Students who complete the assignments will have concrete ideas for integrating accessibility and universal design principles into library workflows.

This four-week course will cover techniques and tools for testing website accessibility, improving the accessibility of online media content, and making your library more inviting and inclusive for individuals with disabilities, with a particular focus on free tools. The class will primarily cover online accessibility, but will also devote time to how these principles can be applied to physical spaces within your library. Participants who are currently working in libraries will leave the course with documents and resources that they can take back to their workplace.

At the end of this course, students will be able to:
  • Define accessibility and universal design
  • Integrate accessibility and universal design into workflows at their libraries
  • Evaluate and improve online accessibility
  • Identify tools that can be used for testing website accessibility
  • Write an accessibility policy

For more information about this course, click here.

Carli Spina
Carli Spina is the Emerging Technologies and Research Librarian at the Harvard Law School Library. Carli holds a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School, an MLIS from Simmons GSLIS, and an M.Ed. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has extensive experience working on web design and technology projects as well as serving as a coordinator for services to patrons with disabilities. She has also served as the leader of the ASCLA Library Services to People with Visual or Physical Disabilities that Prevent Them from Reading Standard Print Interest Group. She has taught classes and workshops for librarians, academic staff, and students on a range of topics, including accessibility and web design. Visit Carli's website at or connect with her on Twitter at @CarliSpina.