Spotlight: Apple iOS and Accessibility

This is the first in our new blog series titled “Spotlight.” The “Spotlight” series will feature case studies, interviews, and other stories about accessibility and disability guidelines, resources, and tools that may be of interest to A&DS members as well as to the archival community as a whole. We will publish a “Spotlight” on the 15th of each month. If you have ideas or suggestions for future “Spotlight” posts, please email us at adsectionblogSAA at gmail dot com.

This month’s Spotlight is written by Michelle Ganz, archives director at McDonough Innovation and chair of the Accessibility and Disability Section. In this post, Michelle looks at accessibility features in Apple iOS.

Apple iOS and Accessibility by Michelle Ganz

Apple has touted its commitment to accessibility since 2012. I’ve been an Apple user since the iPhone 3 in 2007. I would like to briefly review the functions that I have used and give you an honest assessment. Please remember that this is my experience and may not be yours, I also use many of the features but not all of them. I have an iPhone XS running iOS14.2

I have an issue with how buried these settings are. You have to know where to go to find what you need. This extra layer of research required is strange considering how many of these accommodations are written about as ‘fun things you can do with your phone’ articles. 

Apple addresses four types of disability with their optional settings: Vision, Physical/Motor, Hearing. I have found all of the categories to have features I use. 


From the main accessibility menu you can make general adjustments under each heading or drill down to more options. 


The options for vision include audio description, motion control, and adjustments to the voice your phone uses. I always switch to Bold font to make it easier to read smaller fonts. 

Physical/ Motor: 

These options all relate to how you interact with your phone including different ways to control your keyboard, touch ID sensitivity, and how faceID works. In this section I have changed the side buttons to open my hearing aid app, and set backtap to open my control panel where I can adjust my hearing aids. 


For the deaf and hard of hearing there are options to use captioning phones, how the audio is adjusted, and visual alerts which give you a series of flashing lights to alert you. 

In addition to their previously standard feature, Apple introduced a new feature called Sound Recognition that’s a great idea but doesn’t work well for me in practice. The idea is that your phone can alert you to a variety of sounds like sirens, fire alarms, door knocks, and water running. In practice these features don’t work well. I get alerts when someone sets something down on a table, but not when they knock on the door. It alerts me to water running when I am standing at the sink, but not when I leave it running after I walk away.  I suspect that as it ‘learns’ it will get better. With any brand new feature there’s a period between initial release and software patches to make the future fully functional. 


Apple offers a lot of integrated functionality between the iPhone and the Apple Watch. Watch connectivity means I can feel my alerts, which works a lot better than audio alerts. There is a lot of customizability to really make your iPhone work for you. 


The hearing aids I use are specifically designed to work with Apple phones which means I am ‘tied’ to Apple; my hearing aids use a different bluetooth frequency to connect; as opposed to connecting as a bluetooth device. iOS13 ‘broke’ my hearing aids. They refused to acknowledge it and then claimed it would be fixed in the next software update. It was not. iOS14 fixed the worst of the problems like dropping calls and randomly burning through the batteries. But it’s still making all sorts of noises it’s not supposed to. 

For all the issues that I have with iOS accessibility it still really is pretty great. They could be doing a lot better, but the idea (and intention) is a good one. I’m not sure I would switch from another hearing aid manufacturer or move to a different type of phone because of the problems I have, but I’m not sure I would have made my choice solely on the iPhone compatibility if I knew how many issues there would be. I like finding new ways to use the features and seeing what new ideas they come up with.

New blog series! A&DS Roundup

Beginning today, we will be publishing our new “A&DS Roundup” series every month on the first of the month (sorry it’s a bit late this month!). The “Roundup” series will feature articles, upcoming events, and other items of interest to Section membership. If you have suggestions for items for next month’s A&DS Roundup, please email us at adsectionblogSAA at gmail dot com.

Calls for Papers/Presentations/Participation:

Reserve + Renew: The LIS Mental Health Zine is seeking submissions for the fourth issue, The Plague Year. Contributions are welcome from anyone involved in “big tent” librarianship, archives, or museums: if you work or volunteer in a library or archive or museum (currently or formerly), if you’re working towards a library degree, or are otherwise involved in library or GLAM-related work, we want to hear from you.

For additional details see Deadline for submissions is December 31, 2020.

Upcoming Talks and Learning Opportunities:

November 12, 12:30pm EST: Breaking with Tradition: Creating Connections in the Archives with New Types of Access
Presented by Rachael Cristine Woody with Bridgett Kathryn Pride

Abstract: When the general public is introduced to the archives it’s often an intimidating experience. Our ceremony of white gloves, use of expensive boxes, and enforcement of heavily restricted collections access all serve to intimidate and dissuade new users. Whether we intend to or not, archivists are sending the message that they are the gatekeepers of the collection and only “serious business” can be conducted with the collections. So, how do we break that messaging down? How can we serve up the collections in a way that is not only inviting, but inspirational? Rachael Woody is teaming up with Bridgett Kathryn Pride to talk about breaking down archival barriers, empowering novice users, and creating points of access to collections through artful guidance.


November 18, 3pm EST/1pm MST: ADA Compliance Wins for Digital Library Spaces (InfoPeople)

In this webinar you will learn about web accessibility fundamentals for ADA compliance from a working specialist in the field. You will discover how to tie digital accessibility and ADA compliance in with other principles of design (UDL) to create the best and most seamless programming experience possible. Making your documents, presentations, and PDFs accessible online will set you up for further success, and it’s easier than you think.

For more information and to register, visit:

News and Articles:

COVID-19, Accessibility, and Libraries: A Call to Action,” by JJ Pionke in College and Research Libraries News, vol. 81, no. 8 (Sept 2020).

Other Items of Interest:

On October 12, the Digital Library Federation’s Digital Accessibility Working Group hosted a webinar led by Sina Bahram on “Inclusive Design and Accessible Exhibits: Some Guidance for Libraries, Galleries, and Museums.” The recording is available on the DLF YouTube channel:

“What We Don’t Have: Confronting the Absence of Diversity in University Archives” from Carnegie Mellon University. This online exhibit critically explores the silences in the university archives at CMU. As the exhibit notes, “With this exhibit, we aim to expose our work and explore the absences in the University Archives – the voices and experiences we know are missing. These are stories that people are looking for, and we are unable to tell. We recognize that these are not the only gaps in our collections, and we acknowledge that the gaps represent members of our community who have been silenced.”

The University of British Columbia’s Geography department is hosting a series of webinars titled “The Voices of Access and Disability in Higher Education.” The first two videos – Defining Access and Identifying Barriers and Opportunities for Change – are available to watch now on their YouTube channel.

If you have ideas for other blog series or posts, please let us know! Email us at adsectionblogSAA at gmail dot com. We hope to continue to learn and grow together.

October-November Resources!

Hello, everyone!

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month and several other disability awareness commemorations

Here is a brief list of upcoming free and low cost webinars:

DLF Accessibility Working Group’s free webinar “Inclusive Design and Accessible Exhibits: Some Guidance for Libraries, Galleries, and Museums” taught by Sina Bahram, October 12, 3-4:30 ET

Neurodiversity Rising: Eliminating Bias from Hiring” free virtual conference featuring speakers including Temple Grandin, Yuh-Line Niou, and Finn Gardiner, October 14, 1-3:30 ET

The Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) will be hosting two disability-focused webinars (scaled registration fees):

  • Disabilities Consciousness Raising
    Thursday, October 15th, 2020 from 12pm-1pm PST
  • Practical Applications for Disabilities Consciousness Raising (including Immediate Past Chair Lydia Tang as a panelist)
    Friday, October 16th, 2020 from 12pm-2pm PST

Stay tuned on their website for registration information!

The Library Accessibility Alliance has been putting on free webinars on accessibility:

The University of Maryland has created a host of webinars for this month. While the content is primarily oriented towards the UMD campus community, the webinars appear to be free and open to the public. Session topics include workforce recruitment, accessible courses and teaching, #BlackDisabledLivesMatter, Mental Health Awareness Week, IT accessibility, self-care, adaptive sports, disclosure and accommodations, disability rights, and disability stigma. Steering committee member Zachary Tumlin is a co-organizer and moderator for the October 5th event. 

The Starkloff Disability Institute is having a Workforce, Workplace Disability Summit series of free webinars every Wednesday this month:

Oct 7 – Accomodations and the Remote Workplace

Oct 14 – Creating a Culture of Inclusion

Oct 21 – Digital Accessibility: What HR Professionals Need to Know

Oct 28 – The Role Your D&I Team Plays During Crisis

We also want to acknowledge the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who was a champion of disability rights. May her memory be a revolution.

Do you know of other resources or news to share? Please feel free to share it or send it to us to amplify!

Be well,

Lydia Tang

~ on behalf of the Accessibility & Disability Section Steering Committee

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

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

COVID-19 Resources and Information

Last updated March 19, 2020

Working From Home Resources

Archivists at Home began as brainstorming advocacy tool by the Accessibility & Disability Section of the Society of American Archivists for developing a more flexible concept of archival labor, whether it is archivists working from home due to COVID-19 or archivists with disabilities. The document has evolved in scope to address needs of the archival community grappling with COVID-19 broadly, ranging from the workplace, choosing to temporarily close an archives, to working from home, and notes on supporting student and contingent workers.

Archives Workers Emergency Fund (AWEF) is organizing support and mutual aid for contingent archival workers who may be affected by COVID-19, have limited workplace protections or sick time, and may suffer the loss of hours and income as institutions close, reduce hours, and move to remote work in response to the spread of the virus.

The Green Mountain Self-Advocates produced a plain-language booklet on COVID-19. It was created by and for people with disabilities and is shared by the Self Advocacy Resource and Technical Assistance Center. A Spanish translation of the COVID-19 booklet is also available.

Disability Scoop reported on “unique [COVID-19] concerns for caregivers and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

Mental Health

General Resources

Managing Anxiety

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

The International OCD Foundation has compiled resources for dealing with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and COVID-19. For parents, the site also shares information on talking to kids about COVID-19.


For those unable to attend Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings, there is a google document compiling online AA Meetings.

Medical Care and Family Resources

The American Association of People with Disabilities has written about insurance restrictions and prescription drugs and the challenges people with disabilities are now facing to get necessary medication.

More information from the Administration for Community Living, including information for older adults and for disability networks.

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.


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.”

Meet the Steering Committee

Bridget Malley

What are your goals for the section, and for your participation as a member of the steering commmittee?

I’m quite pleased with the A&D section’s work in our first year! One (ongoing) goal for the future: For us to serve as a central resource for information on how to make physical and digital spaces, records, and professional presentations accessible. I’d love it if “Have you checked out the A&D section’s resources?” becomes a popular suggestion regardless of whether accessibility is the key thing a person’s working on.
As a member of the section, I’d like to help highlight disability in the historic record. It’s something we’ve only touched on briefly thus far. I’m excited to see where we go in the next year of our section’s existence!

Where do you see specific needs for accessibility in the profession?

Let me preface this bit by saying that in many ways, I’m lucky. I’ve lived with severe-to-profound bilateral hearing loss my entire life and have worn hearing aids since I was two years old. Though my hearing has gotten a bit worse over the years, it’s mostly a stable condition—I wake up each day and know that yeah, this is the way things are. I’ve got the tech I need; I know what to ask for in the workplace and in social situations. I don’t have to ‘defend’ my disability because the proof’s visible on my ears.

Other folks face exasperation and exhaustion daily when trying to explain that their conditions may be unpredictable (chronic pain doesn’t exactly clock in and out on a reliable schedule). Others have to explain that their disability is no less real for being invisible. And still others may find themselves newly part of the disability community, unsure of how to navigate their situation and unsure of how it will impact their future. 

So. It feels like a bit of a cop-out answer, but we need more awareness. Conversations about disability and accessibility in the archives (as in: physical institutions, the profession as a whole, and records themselves) need to be ongoing, not occasional.

How would you like to be ‘seen’? Is your disability part of your identity?

As someone who got mainstreamed early on in life (i.e., transitioned from a deaf school to a ‘normal’ school), I sometimes struggle with how disability fits into my identity. It can be difficult to shake the notion that I’m almost normal, that hearing loss is something to be overcome—like thinking there’s a piece of me out of place, instead of going all-in on the notion that this is me. Can’t be anything out of place if that’s who you are, you know?

So yeah! I’d like to be seen as a deaf/HoH LIS professional, whatever that means to me and whatever that means to you. (Hopefully what that means to you is captioning more materials because please. I just want to know what’s going on, lol.)

Bridget Malley (she/her) is a part-time librarian at Seton Hill University and a contract worker with the Western Pennsylvania Disability History and Action Consortium. She received her MLIS from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Michelle Ganz

What are your goals for the section, and for your participation as a member of the steering committee?

One of my main goals for the section is to help create a model of sustainable programming and intiatives. My second goal is to ensure that this section is a place where new leaders can develop their skills and gain the confidence to become strong leaders in the SAA, within their institutions, and for disability & accessibility causes wherever they pop up. The section steering committee has been committed to these goals since day one and is baked into everything we do as a leadership group. 

Where do you see specific needs for accessibility in the profession?

The archives profession has long been an advocate for disability & accessibility, but we can always do better. Invisible and temporary disabilities; mental and emotional disabilities; we are coming to see that accessibility and disability are not a niche issues but ones that affect us all. 

How would you like to be ‘seen’? Is your disability part of your identity? 

The idea of being ’seen’ is an interesting one; when I was a child I hid my disability from everyone except teachers that needed to know. It didn’t make me ashamed of my disability, but it did cause a lot of anxiety and made it hard for me to ask for help. I did learn an amazing array of coping techniques and allowed me to create a toolbox of accessibility tools/techniques that are invaluable.  But, as I grew older I realized that while my parents hearts were in the right place, I was at a serious disadvantage when it came to advocating for myself. When I finally got a hearing aid (then added a second crossover aid) I realized that I had a chance to finally be able to ‘visually disclose’ my invisible disability (I’m deaf in my right ear and severely deaf in the left) through easy to see hearing aids. The relief this gave me was immeasurable. And made me realize that being deaf is very much part of who I am. I’m not sure I would be the same person I am today if I was fully hearing, and I like that! Being hard of hearing is just another thing about me like the fact that I wear glasses or that I’m short. 

I have discovered that being disabled has made me a more resilient person during the pandemic. I was already familiar with the tools we’re using to tele-communicate, I have zero problem seeking a workaround when a tool fails to work as advertised, I am highly skilled at ensuring I don’t catch anything (and how to deal with being sick when I do), and I’m just better at dealing with the panic that comes from so many unknowns. I’m excited by the fact that the old excuses for why a disabled person can’t work from home clearly can’t be used as an excuse. The whole world pivoted to finding a way to make it work; disability advocates on the national, local, and personal level can use that to make things better for everyone when we return to the new normal. 

Michelle Ganz (she/her) is the archives director for William McDonough, creating a unique living archive. She received her MLIS from the University of Arizona and her BA from the Ohio State University. She has been a professional archivist for 12 years. Contact Michelle at

Jade Finlinson

What are your goals for the section, and for your participation as a member of the steering committee?

As an independent researcher and new archives professional who also relies on a wheelchair for mobility, I am thrilled to be in a position to advocate for changes in this area. I hope to promote discussions about how broadly defined words such as ‘disability’ or ‘accessibility’ can be understood by all of us, for everyone’s benefit. I joined the ADS steering committee with several goals, including the intention of learning from my section colleagues about issues they face and collaborating to create an open forum in which we can seek to understand and challenge barriers to accessibility in our field. We must work together to forward an agenda that considers and defines our specific needs, recognizes those needs as a part of our personhood, urges us to advocate for ourselves as being essential parts of our institutions, and supports us in making our institutions more accessible and accepting. I’m also working on the ADS blog team to provide a place to share knowledge and resources.

My recent experiences working in archives and libraries has given me a fresh perspective on the challenges and joys of being a professional with a complex physical disability. For example, my specific physical needs and limitations as a paraplegic have impacted my experiences in job interviews and professional conversations with new employers regarding lifting, climbing, and other requirements listed on the original posting, as well as on-boarding and training tasks that were not created with inclusion in mind. Additionally, I am acutely attuned to the labor issues presented by the ascendant model of temporary and contract work in archives, especially as a physically disabled individual with limited ability to work traditional hours and therefore more limited prospects for long-term employment. Addressing such issues from a proactive perspective is foremost for me, and I hope my distinctive contributions to the section promote the development of thoughtful strategies to navigate common issues which often are fraught with discomfort and anxiety on all sides.

A personal goal for participating in the steering committee centers on making myself a more open and compassionate colleague when discussing disability and accessibility in the workplace. I look forward to working with fellow archivists to exterminate stigma around invisible disabilities and illnesses that require understanding from colleagues and the public. I hope that my perspective as a physically disabled archivist can be an asset to the section membership during this first stage of development and that my experiences negotiating professional situations and advocating for myself will inspire others to do the same for themselves.


Jade Finlinson earned her MLIS from UCLA in 2017, and has since worked primarily as an independent researcher, as a contract project archivist, and internship positions while continuing to work independently with nonprofit arts organizations and consulting for smaller archives in the Los Angeles area and in Southeastern Utah. Her years of experience using primary source materials for innovative research projects and creative public programming have informed her independent scholarship in visual culture and historical subjects. She lives with a spinal cord injury as the result of being hit by a drunk driver in 2005. Contact Jade at and visit for links to archives-related scholarship and art projects.