ADS Year One Retrospective

Comments from the outgoing chair, Lydia Tang, at the Accessibility & Disability Section’s first annual meeting, July 30th, 2020. See the notes from the annual meeting for more information.

Nearly a year ago at SAA, I heard that the Accessibility & Disability Section was approved by the Society of American Archivists’ Council, and today we are together here celebrating our first year!

This section has been the kernel of dreams for several years. When the first Archives Management and Records Management Joint Task Force on Accessibility submitted their initial Best Practices in 2008, they recognized that it wasn’t enough to assemble best practices and put it on a shelf. Accessibility is ever evolving and the concept of disability representation – that people with disabilities are not only your patrons but your peers – was still a “new” concept.

It took 10 years to assemble a Task Force to Revise these best practices, and when I joined in March 2018 as a last-minute scrappy walk-on, I wrote to the co-chairs and said that I wanted to create a section on accessibility. 

After the Best Practices were revised and submitted, I convened a Section Visioning committee to help build the SAA Council proposal which included the following individuals: Gracen Brilmyer, Steven Gentry, Eric Hung, Nicole Joniec, Helice Koffler, Anna Kresmer, Charity Park, Blake Relle, Amy San Antonio, Jamie Seemiller, Lindy Smith, London Stever, Phillip Stone, Chris Tanguay, Lauren White, and Carol Wilson.

The initial petition to establish this section received the minimum 100 signatures in less than 24-hours, by the time of submission at the end of the week to nearly 300 signatures. In this initial planning team, we grappled with the vision, scope, and name of the section:

  • Disability Rights
  • Accessibility of spaces, technologies and services
  • Disability in the historical record
  • Accessibility, inclusion, and empowerment for archivists with disabilities – I don’t think there is another professional LIS organization that actually has disability representation of peers, not only patrons. 
  • It’s all there… or can be.

“Accessibility & Disability” is two sides of a coin and hopefully leaves the door open to address everything. Disability must be represented and embraced and accessibility must be constantly present and continuously innovated. 

It took a some back and forth with Council to make this section happen – there are already a staggering number of existing sections for the organization to sustain. When the word came out that Council had finally approved the section at SAA last year, I was thrilled and… completely overcommitted. I knew that I needed someone with tremendous energy and drive to get this section off the group and the obvious choice to me was Michelle Ganz to be the founding co-chair. As a member of the original 2008 Joint Task Force and someone I knew from past experiences to be tirelessly passionate about disability representation, accessibility, and who knows how to get a job done, it has been my absolute pleasure to share the leadership with her this year. 

The initial steering committee was a 12-person dream team tasked with the daunting role of establishing a section from the ground up. Over the course of the first year the committee was able to: 

  • Establish bylaws
  • Establish and populate a blog
  • Create numerous resource guides including the widely distributed Archivists at Home document and inclusive interviewing and recruitment document
  • Advised Annual meeting planners on providing captioning for section meetings
  • Provided feedback and suggested changes to SAA Education re: webinars and workshops
  • This section has also been an incubator to other great projects spearheaded by members of ADS leadership, such as the Archival Workers Emergency Fund.
  • Laid the administrative foundation to sustain the Section in the future. 

Our efforts were recognized this year by a Council Resolution, which solidly affirms our integral role within the archival profession.

I’d like to thank the following ADS leaders who are rotating off who all contributed to this banner first year: Jade Finlinson, Cheryl Oestreicher, and Sara White.

I’d also like to congratulate and welcome the following new and rising members of the ADS leadership:

Vice Chair: Jessica Chapel

Steering Committee Members: Ingi House, Bridget Malley, Emily Mathay, Zachary Tumlin

 Early Career Member: Brad Ferrier

It has been a profound honor to work with you all to establish this section. In this coming year, I will be stepping back into the role of Immediate Past Chair and Michelle Ganz will continue on as the Chair. 

Congratulations on a great first year! Looking forward to everything ahead!

Lydia Tang

Immediate Past Chair, Accessibility & Disability Section

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