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!



Michelle Ganz, co-chair for the Accessibility and Disability Section steering committee, shares an appreciation for her allies in navigating life as a hard-of hearing individual:

“We talk a lot about allies and what they do. But we don’t really talk specifics ever. I realized the other day that my allies (and I am fortunate to have more than one in my life) do so much more than just help me do things. So, I wanted to share some of the things that my able-bodied partner/allies do that really help me out.

He/they pay attention to the environments we go into and asks how I am periodically (especially if there’s a lot of white noise). If I look like I’m overwhelmed or unable to actively participate they offer to go somewhere else (rather than make me ask if it’s ok to leave).

If we’re in a restaurant and I’ve clearly not heard a question from the waitstaff, they’ll say something like she’s hard of hearing so please ask her again.

They explain what hard of hearing versus deaf is to people. My partner explains how hearing aids help/work and what they don’t do. And he explains that disability doesn’t mean can’t, it just means different. They do this a lot when I’m not around (which keeps me from being an exhibit to be examined). They also does it when I clearly don’t want to go through the ‘speech’ again.

The thing is, I am perfectly capable of navigating daily life. But it’s exhausting. And it’s All The Time. And some days I just don’t have the desire to be The Teacher. Having someone to help out is great. Having someone who talks about disability like it’s not big deal is awesome.

Our allies do a lot for us, even when we don’t see the help. They help make disability just another part of being who we are; not the only thing about us. Being an advocate is heavy work, knowing that the work is shared makes it easier.

I’d like to thank the people in the section that are abled-allies. I’m glad you’re here.”

Disability Allyship Tips

Speak up when someone denigrates the disabled. Especially when we’re not there. 

Use diverse examples in your presentations, papers, workflows, conversations, etc. When the disabled are used as just another example people’s brains will stop defaulting to able-bodied as the norm. 

Learn when it’s ok to offer help and when to just help. This is a very personal choice made by us and needs to be respected. Things like when it’s ok to hold open a door, when it’s ok to touch someone, when to explain a disability, etc.

Not every interaction is an appropriate teachable moment; recognize what the right moments look like.

Make sure to not infantilize someone with a disability; doing something differently does not make someone incapable of completing the task. 

Stay informed about new accessibility/assistive technologies

Do not speak for us unless you know it’s ok; especially if we are already dealing with the issue.  

Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know and point someone to a resource.

— Anonymous Contributor

Disability Allyship Tips from Lindy Smith

I give people the option of the elevator when we’re walking somewhere together instead of assuming they can take the stairs and making them ask.

I am working on adjusting my vocabulary to no longer include ableist language.

I don’t question or require proof when people (especially direct reports or students) request an accommodation.

I try to be open about my own limitations in an attempt to destigmatize because I am in a position of relative privilege and likely won’t face any negative repercussions.

I seek out voices from people with disabilities and learn from them.

I recognize that no group is a monolith and respect differing views within marginalized communities.

I always use the microphone when there is one and advocate for one when there isn’t.

I don’t get any of these things right 100% of the time, but they’re all things I’m actively working toward