Building a Remote Work Toolkit and Panel Opportunity

Building upon the Archivists at Home remote work advocacy document, the SAA Accessibility & Disability Section is building a remote work toolkit to continue to advance hybrid or fully remote archival work options. With the COVID-19 pandemic, many jobs transitioned at some point to remote work and the Section continues to advocate for the continued adoption of this work approach. 

The benefits of remote work, particularly for archival workers with disabilities, can be truly transformational. Whether it is flexible work hours or personal control over work environment and set up, remote work can be beneficial for both employees and employers. For employers, remote work allows for a wider and more diverse job pool, regardless of geographic location.

The Section has begun compiling examples of remote work job descriptions and remote work policies. Would you like to help us build this toolkit? Volunteer for the team or please send along helpful resources! Contact us at or on Twitter @SAA_ADS.

Additionally, we are also seeking participants for a panel discussion in October for National Disability Employment Awareness Month on the intersection of archival work, disability, and remote work. If you’re interested in participating, submit this form by Monday August 29th.


Call for Abstracts – Preserving Disability: Disability and the Archival Profession (Litwin Books)

Edited by: Gracen Brilmyer and Lydia Tang

Submission form: Please submit your abstract and author details

Looking for collaborators? Contribute your ideas and connect with others on our brainstorming document

Questions for the editors? Contact Gracen Brilmyer & Lydia Tang

Key Points:

– Abstracts due: February 19, 2022

– Invitations to submit full papers: March 1, 2022

– Full papers due: July 1, 2022

– Estimated publication date: September 2023

We are inviting contributions from disabled archivists and disabled archival users to bring critical perspectives and approaches to the archival profession for a forthcoming book, Preserving Disability: Disability and the Archival Profession (to be published by Litwin Books). This book aims to explicitly address disability, ableism, and accessibility as they intersect with the archival profession—through collection development, archival labor, and accessing historical records. We seek submissions that cover topics including but not limited to:

  • Historical overviews of disability and/or accessibility in the archival field and profession
  • Overviews of accessibility, legal regulations, standards, and best practices across different types of archives—community, university, government, corporate, etc.
  • Critiques of standards and initiatives that emphasize legal compliance over actual users 
  • First-person experiences from disabled archivists or users working with disability collections and connecting with the past
  • Disabled archivists experiences in the workplace: job requirements, disclosure, accommodations, self-advocacy, and ableism
  • Professional values, ableist expectations, and job precarity for disabled archivists (for tenure, promotions, contract renewal, etc.) 
  • Funding and fundraising around disability and accessibility
  • Disability collection appraisal, acquisition, description, and preservation
  • Archival absences in collections and the evolving concept of who and what is worthy of remembrance
  • Navigating challenges with privacy and access for disability collections
  • Disabled users’ experiences of accessibility or inaccessibility of digital and/or physical spaces, archival content, and services
  • Gatekeeping and stigmatization: the policing of behavior, bodies, and disabled people in reading rooms
  • Disability community engagement: creating and sustaining relationships with donors, creators, and community members for historical documentation, events, and outreach
  • Proposals or best practices for disabled leadership and disability-centered hiring, inclusive workplaces, and job models
  • Calls to action for archives to better support disabled archivists, users, and disability-related collections

We welcome contributions especially from multiply marginalized or minoritized archival workers and users of archives as well as a broad representation of archival repository types. We also actively seek contributors from outside academia who reflect on their experiences in archives. 

Abstracts are encouraged to be under 500 words in length. 

Please submit your abstract and author details by February 19, 2022.

We are also recruiting peer reviewers for this book. If you wish to be considered as a peer reviewer, please fill out the Peer Reviewer Recruitment form. Possible peer reviewers will be contacted in late spring.

July Updates

Happy Disability Pride Month and happy 30th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act!

Register to join the Accessibility & Disability Section for our first SAA annual meeting on Thursday, July 30th, 1-2:15 CT! This meeting is open to everyone, not only SAA registered attendees, and will be recorded. We are pleased to feature the following presentations:

  • Nicole Joniec: Universally Designing for Accommodation: Accessibility at the Science History Institute
  • Tyler Stump: Collecting Intellectual Disability Records in a Time of Deinstitutionalization

Following the presentations, we will hold a brainstorming session to identify section goals for this coming year. We look forward to seeing you there!

For SAA attendees, be sure to check out Archivists with Disabilities, Friday, August 7, 2:30-3:15pm CT, which features presenters Veronica Denison, Ann Abney, Michelle Ganz, and Chris Tanguay!

Learn more about disability and accessibility in new and recently released resources:


Not a member of the Accessibility & Disability Section yet? Join us in SAA Connect!

SAA Council Statement on Black Lives and Archives

On June 2, 2020, the SAA Council stated:

“We, the Council of the Society of American Archivists, unanimously condemn harassment and violence against the Black community. As archivists, we learn from history that this country was founded on genocide and slavery. We continue to witness the legacy of this history with systemic and structural racism that lead to marginalization, disenfranchisement, and death. The murder of George Floyd, and countless others, at the hands of the police manifest the continuing atrocities faced by Black Americans today. As a profession, we stand by our community and acknowledge, unequivocally, that Black Lives Matter.”

Read the full statement on the SAA website. Additional resources provided in the SAA Council statement are listed below. For further anti-racist actions archivists can take, consider reading the AWE Fund Organizing Committee open letter to the archival community.

DocNow: Ethical Considerations for Archiving Social Media Content Generated by Contemporary Social Movements: Challenges, Opportunities, and Recommendations

WITNESS: Community-Based Approaches to Archives From the Black Lives Matter Movement

A Case Study For Assessing Special Collections Spaces Using SAA Guidelines for Accessible Archives For People With Disabilities

Lindy Smith, Head of LaBudde Special Collections, University of Missouri-Kansas City

I started work as Head of LaBudde Special Collections at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) on August 1, 2019. UMKC is a mid-sized public university that is part of a larger state-wide system and located in an urban environment. Like many public universities, we have limited funding available for facilities. Our library building is over 50 years old, though the special collections reading room, collection storage, and staff areas have been remodeled over the course of the past decade, give or take a few years. The following is an informal assessment of our spaces that I have conducted using the Physical Environment section of the SAA Guidelines for Accessible Archives for People with Disabilities and some of the changes we have made or plan to make in the near future.

Physical Environment

Buildings and Grounds

SAA: At least one door should have automatic openers and should be wide enough (i.e. 36 inches) to accommodate wheelchairs and scooters.

UMKC: The library building has multiple accessible entrances, but the special collections reading room does not. We are closed off from the rest of the third floor and visitors must open one of a set of two large doors to gain entrance. Each of the two double doors is exactly 36”. The opening is about a half inch less because of the frame, but should still accommodate nearly all users. The doors are moderately heavy, automatically close, and require constant resistance to keep open. They are not easy to manage for someone with limited mobility or strength, in a wheelchair, or a staff member trying to navigate with a book truck full of collection materials. I have requested an automatic opener for our reading room and it is on the list of projects to be completed when we have available funding.

SAA: Eliminate obstacles that could be tripping hazards for people with sight disabilities or who use scooters/wheelchairs.

UMKC: We recently rearranged all of the furniture to allow for better sight lines from our desk and better collection security. All of our tables have built in power outlets, so we made sure we could still provide power. One table would require running a cord across the floor, so we have requested a cord cover to help mitigate it as a tripping hazard. We also made sure to leave as much space as possible between chairs (50” when pushed in) to allow for accessibility throughout the space.

SAA: Aisles/stacks should be wide enough (i.e. 36 inches minimum and 42 inches preferred) to accommodate wheelchairs and scooters. If they are not wide enough for wheelchairs to turn around (i.e. 48 inches), they should be open at both ends to prevent the need to back up for long distances.

UMKC: We do not have any publicly accessible stacks in the special collections space. We do have some wall mounted shelving but there is sufficient space around it for members of the public. Closed stacks areas all have at least 36” of clearance. They are only open at one end, but are not very long. This is an issue to address if we ever have the chance to reconfigure that space, but it would reduce our storage capacity and be prohibitively expensive to correct now.

SAA: If a public elevator is not available, visitors should be permitted to use employee elevators while accompanied by an employee.

UMKC: There are four elevators visitors can use to access our space: two in the library and two in an adjoining classroom building that has a direct link to our floor. This is not true of every floor in the building, so we are very lucky to be located where we are.

SAA: Bathrooms should have wheelchair-accessible toilets and sinks as well as proper disposal containers for medical and personal hygiene.

UMKC: We have two sets of public restrooms on our floor: one in the library (men and women) and one in the adjoining classroom building (men, women, and family/gender neutral). All offer accessible stalls and sinks. Waste disposal is a little trickier. Stalls in the women’s restrooms do have designated bins for hygiene items, but stalls in the men’s do not. Restroom trashcans are limited to only recyclable paper towel disposal.

SAA: Signage should be in large print, with high contrast between letters and backgrounds.

Signs should be printed on non-glare surfaces. Whenever possible, Braille should be included in standardized locations.

UMKC: All permanent library signage is in large print with high contrast and we have room numbers in Braille outside doors. Directional signage on our floor is on non-glare surfaces but the sign that identifies the reading room is shiny and silver. I plan to investigate additional options to identify the space.

SAA: Manually operated compact shelving should be avoided unless it is possible to ensure that someone with a disability can turn the crank arms. Electrically operated compact shelving is recommended.

UMKC: We have an automated storage and retrieval system (high density storage with a robot that retrieves and delivers stored materials to operator stations). Some computer stations do require the user to stand to both manage requests and retrieve the materials, some only required the user to stand to access the materials. Because of the nature of the system, we cannot change how it operates. We would have to provide an accommodation to staff members who could not stand or climb a ladder to retrieve items.

SAA: Flooring should comply with archival facility guidelines endorsed by the SAA, 14 such as sealed concrete, low-pile carpet or carpet tiles, or sealed wood floors.

UMKC: All floors are low-pile carpet tiles, sealed concrete, or smooth hard tiles.

SAA: Venues should be smoke-free and fragrance-free out of consideration for people who are sensitive to smells.

UMKC: We are a smoke free campus. We do not use any environmental fragrances, but employees are not prohibited from wearing fragrances or using fragranced products like fabric softeners or personal care products.

SAA: Venues should have zoned temperature and humidity controls which balance the preservation of the collections and the comfort of employees and visitors.

UMKC: This is an ongoing struggle. I am sure many readers can relate! It is generally comfortable for users in our reading room, but we have been dealing with improper temperatures in both collection spaces and staff offices. Both we and campus facilities are taking this seriously and it will hopefully be fixed soon.

Reading Room

SAA: The reference desk should be designed to flexibly accommodate both researchers and employees. At least a portion of the desk should be at a lower height to enable people using wheelchairs to interact with employees at eye level. If the desk is not accessible, an employee should meet the researcher in a more accessible location within the room.

Consider having dual screens at the reference computer so that a researcher can follow what the employee is doing. Enable communicating via chat if needed.

UMKC: We do have a lower portion of our desk. We also have one computer with a dual screen so we can demonstrate searching and browsing for users. We are in the process of implementing limited chat services where we wouldn’t have a separate account, but would be available to accept transferred requests from our main reference department.

SAA: Chairs should be height and ergonomically adjustable and mobile. Provide a variety of chair sizes and styles to accommodate all visitors.

At least one reading room table should be height adjustable.

UMKC: We only have one model each of chairs and tables in our reading room. They are not height adjustable. We have another model of chairs available in the space, but they do not have accompanying tables. This is a need to consider for the future. Currently furniture is only a few years old, lightly used, and we would not be able to make a good argument for replacing it at this time.

SAA: Consider providing an extra wheelchair or other mobility tools for visitors to borrow on site.

UMKC: This is not something we currently offer in special collections, but it might be something we could offer library-wide.

Overall, I think we have addressed many, but not all, of the Guidelines. Of those that remain, there are some that cannot easily be changed and will always require accommodations, some that can and are being easily fixed, and some that we can work to remedy over the next few years. I hope this has inspired you to take a look at your spaces and see what small or large changes you can make to improve the experience of your staff or researchers with disabilities.