Accessibility and Ability in LIS Curricula and Pedagogy

Sharing Lessons Learned


  • Rea N. Simons Old Dominion University
  • Kevin J. Mallary Old Dominion University
  • Clayton A. Copeland The University of South Carolina
  • Mirah J. Dow Emporia State University
  • Evan J. Dorman Old Dominion University
  • Brandy N. Fox The University of South Carolina



accessibility, disability, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)


In recent years, library and information science (LIS) academic programs have been working to address systemic bias within the field and to improve their coverage of issues related to diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, and justice (DEIAJ). While accessibility is a core part of DEIAJ considerations and the American Library Association values (ALA, 2019), it is rarely considered central to curriculum and accessibility and disability are seldom covered in graduate LIS courses (Alajmi & Alshammari, 2020; Ren et al., 2022).

The lack of LIS curricular content addressing accessibility and serving disabled patrons mirrors the struggles of LIS practitioners to address those issues (Dow & Bushman, 2020; Potnis & Mallary, 2021). For example, previous research argues that librarians should understand Web accessibility to provide equitable access to digital resources (e.g., digital libraries, LibGuides, and websites) for disabled patrons (Mulliken & Djenmo, 2017). However, LIS graduates and practicing librarians report feeling uncomfortable with creating accessible Web pages and LibGuides (Pionke, 2021). Similarly, while previous research indicates that graduates must learn to engage with disabled patrons to elicit their accessibility needs (Copeland, 2012; Copeland, 2023; Gibson et al., 2021) and that empathy training helps practicing librarians better engage disabled patrons (Pionke, 2021), few LIS programs integrate such training into their curricula.

Unfortunately, LIS faculty may feel under-supported or unprepared to address this content in program curricula or their individual courses. Research in related fields indicates that faculty have concerns about unfamiliarity with the content (Guedes & Landoni, 2020), insufficient time or institutional support (Kawas et al., 2019), and a lack of program- and field-level learning objectives (Shinohara et al., 2018). While little research specifically explores LIS educators’ experiences teaching accessibility principles and practices, previous work indicates that faculty may feel unprepared to teach topics such as accessible Web design (Mulliken & Djenmo, 2017).

Despite the lack of research on LIS faculty experiences with teaching accessibility-related content, some best practices and impacts of including this content have been shared. Examples include teaching LIS students how adopting Universal Design for Learning can create accessible and inclusive training (Lewitzky & Weaver, 2022) and how evaluating and designing accessible digital resources can improve disabled patrons’ experiences using library services (Mulliken, 2016). Integrating accessibility content within a service-learning framework can help students become even more attuned to disabled patrons’ accessibility needs and show students how to co-create inclusive library and information spaces (Copeland, 2019).

LIS faculty must better equip graduates to serve disabled patrons while modeling accessible pedagogy. Additionally, collaboration between LIS faculty and students in addressing these topics is necessary to achieve equity in the field. Given that this topic deserves more time beyond this session, the panel aims to facilitate a timely, worthwhile conversation with LIS educators and students about information behaviors and practices in accessible LIS learning experiences, as well as building and facilitating an ongoing accessibility community of practice.

This panel will comprise two 45-minute sections, with the first section addressing accessibility concerns and the second section modeling instructional design strategies. Each section will begin with the moderator asking panelists questions to prompt discussion. Questions will include topics on how LIS curricula can prepare students to address disability and accessibility issues and tools, as well as on how faculty can ensure accessible learning environments. Panelists will ensure that both faculty and student perspectives are represented (10 minutes).

Next, each panelist will lead a breakout group in discussing questions raised (20 minutes). Panelists will reconvene and report back, with the moderator synthesizing connections made (10 minutes). Five minutes will be allotted for introductions, and another five minutes for an intermission between sections.

During each breakout discussion, panelists will gather contact details from participants interested in building a community of practice dedicated to integrating accessibility in LIS education. As a first step toward developing this community, panelists will establish a ListServ using interested participants’ email addresses. Next steps will be shared with ListServ recipients.


Alajmi, B., & Alshammari, I. (2020). Strands of diversity in library and information science graduate curricula. Malaysian Journal of Library and Information Science, 25(1), 103–120. DOI:

American Library Association. (2019). Core values of librarianship. Advocacy, Legislation & Issues.

Copeland, C. A. (2012). Equity of access to information: A comparative exploration of library accessibility and information access from differently-able patrons' perspectives [Doctoral dissertation, University of South Carolina]. Scholar Commons.

Copeland, C. A. (2019). Everyone, everywhere, every time. Journal of New Librarianship, 4(Special Issue), 380–386. DOI:

Copeland, C. A. (Ed.). (2023). Disabilities and the library: Fostering equity for patrons and staff with differing abilities. ABC-CLIO. DOI:

Dow, M., & Bushman, B. (2020). Neurodiversity in higher education: Library and information science educators address the learning needs of students with intellectual disabilities. Proceedings of the Association of Library and Information Science Education, 97–109.

Gibson, A., Bowen, K., & Hanson, D. (2021). We need to talk about how we talk about disability: A critical quasi-systematic review. In the Library with the Lead Pipe.

Guedes, L., & Landoni, M. (2020). How are we teaching and dealing with accessibility? A survey from Switzerland. Proceedings of the International Conference on Software Development and Technologies for Enhancing Accessibility and Fighting Information Exclusion, 141–146. DOI:

Kawas, S., Vonessen, L., & Ko, A. (2019). Teaching accessibility: A design exploration of faculty professional development at scale. Proceedings of the 50th ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education, 983–989. DOI:

Lewitzky, R., & Weaver, K. (2022). Developing Universal Design for Learning asynchronous training in an academic library. Partnership: The Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research, 16(2), 1–18. DOI:

Mulliken, A. (2016). Technology, diversity, Web accessibility, and ALA accreditation standards in MLIS. International Journal of Information, Diversity, & Inclusion, 1(1), 1–19. DOI:

Mulliken, A., & Djenmo, M. (2017). Faculty visions for teaching Web accessibility within LIS curricula in the United States: A qualitative study. The Library Quarterly, 87(1), 36–54. DOI:

Pionke, J. J. (2021). A secondary analysis of the library profession’s self-reported competence and comfort in working with patrons with disabilities. Library Management, 42(6–7), 409–420. DOI:

Potnis, D., & Mallary, K. (2021). Analyzing service divide in academic libraries for better serving disabled patrons using assistive technologies. College & Research Libraries, 82(6), 879–898. DOI:

Ren, X., Alemanne, N., & Colson, L. (2022). How MLIS programs prepare students to serve diverse populations: The North American context. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, 63(3), 301–320. DOI:

Shinohara, K., Kawas, S., Ko, A., & Ladner, R. (2018). Who teaches accessibility? A survey of U.S. computing faculty. Proceedings of the 49th ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education, 197–202. DOI:






Panels (Juried)