Disabled People Use the Internet! Building and Maintaining Inclusive Library Spaces Online

Session Description

Online library services often exclude people with disabilities. Purposeful design and use of digital resources (including websites, databases, and social media) can improve inclusion. This session includes some basic technical considerations as well as institutional actions that can be taken to create more inclusive online spaces. Participants are encouraged to share their own accessibility-related concerns, questions, and comments.

While there are clear ethical and legal arguments for ensuring that all library services are equitable, there are many reasons why libraries should be particularly concerned with creating more inclusive online spaces for people with disabilities now. Young people with disabilities have higher rates of internet use than their elders and are more likely to be exposed to technology in educational spaces. Moreover, a library’s digital presence is key to advertising in-person events and sharing information regarding the accessibility of its physical space.

Along with institutional and website accessibility considerations, this presentation will also provide up-to-date guidance on ensuring libraries’ social media presence takes advantage of inclusive practices on social media. Social media connects institutions with community members who may never enter a library building but may attend events virtually. This includes activities such as online story-times, author read-alongs, and virtual book club meetings. Additionally, there are many disability activists and self-advocates active on social media who engage in conversations related to disabilities. Connecting the library to these conversations can educate library staff on community members’ experiences and needs as well as foster mutual engagement.

This presentation is designed for both current librarian practitioners and future librarians interested in accessible technology or tasked with developing inclusive practices for their institutions. Advanced technological knowledge is not required, although a willingness to test out digital tools will be encouraged during the session.

Presenter(s)

Laura March, PhD Student & Research Assistant, UNC-Chapel Hill

Laura March
Laura March is a PhD student and research assistant at the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has over ten years of experience designing accessible online environments and teaching virtually. Her research interests are the intersections of technology, education, and creativity. Prior to beginning doctoral studies, Laura worked at the Carolina Office for Online Learning, American University’s Center for Teaching, Research & Learning, and the Pennsylvania State University’s Education Technology Services, Institute for Arts & Humanities, and Palmer Museum of Art. She received an MS in Art Education and an MEd in Instructional Systems from the Pennsylvania State University.


Dr. Amelia Gibson, Assistant Professor, UNC-Chapel Hill: School of Information and Library Science

Dr. Amelia Gibson
Amelia Gibson is an Assistant Professor at the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her primary research interests focus on the ways that information and data are used by and against marginalized communities, with a focus on health and wellness in communities of color (particularly among women and girls) and among disabled people. Her work explores the ways we understand and replicate systemic information poverty, marginalization, and equity in local communities and on the internet. She is the director of the Community Equity, Data and Information Lab at Chapel Hill. Dr. Gibson is a UNC Thorp Community Engaged scholar and a fellow with the UNC Center for Media Law and Policy, the Parr Center for Ethics and Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute. She is the recipient of an IMLS Early Career Award and UNC Junior Faculty Development Award. She holds a Ph.D. and MLIS from Florida State University, and a BA from Dartmouth College.

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