by Ellen Perlow, MSLS, PhD CHES, Chair of the ASCLA Century Scholarship Committee

This article is a response to the article “PLEASECOME: New Discussion Forum Addresses Library Service to People with Learning, Social, Cognitive, or Medical Disabilities” by Carrie Banks (ASCLA Interface, Fall 2008, p. 11).

The new forum discussed in the cited “PLEASECOME” article is very worthy of all ALA and ASCLA members’ support and everyone’s attention. By definition, being human, everyone has learning, social, cognitive, and/or medical access issues.

However, with all due respect, is the establishment of this new forum in the best interest of ASCLA, LSSPS, and, most importantly, of the new forum itself?

1. ASCLA, the Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies, otherwise fondly referred to as the “Awesome Super Cool Library Association,” is a microcosm and the American Library Association (ALA) division most inclusive of the diverse interests of library and information science (LIS) professionals. For other ALA divisions, ASCLA is the model for effective sharing and pooling of limited resources, including human resources, so essential for every organization’s sustainability (indeed, ASCLA shares ALA staff with another ALA division).


a. Does this new forum with its separate agenda, information gathering mechanism, and conference meeting time and venue, serve the best interests and promote the resource sharing goals of its ASCLA and LSSPS parent groups and the existing LSSPS forums?

b. Does the new forum serve its own best interests? Will new forum members miss learning opportunities by not being able to share in the work, discussion, and ideas generated by other LSSPS forums?

c. What workaround will new forum members have for the two major perennial universal ALA (and thus also ASCLA and LSSPS member) conference access issues, notably those of limited time and logistics and the human inability to be physically present at two or more conference commitments held at the same time in different locations?

2. A second question is whether the new forum’s topics of discussion are mutually exclusive of those of existing LSSPS forums, thus justifying its existence as a separate entity. Evidence-based brain research demonstrates that multimodal-Universally Designed for Learning (UDL) interventions (for example, library services and materials) are beneficial across the spectrum of access needs (CAST, 2008). Captioning and its companion audio description benefit not only people with hearing or sight issues, but also people with learning/cognitive differences and second language learners (King, 2002), raising all students’ literacy levels and comprehension of complex literary texts (Snyder, 2006, 2007; Walton, 2006). Captioning, in particular, is very popular with the general public (Harniss, Amtmann, Cook, Johnson, 2007, p.S49). Examples of the popularity of captioning include: subtitles for foreign language film translation (King, 2002), as a documentation tool for verbal communication, and for noisy venues such as airports, train stations, stock exchanges, health clubs, and sports bars (Amtmann & Johnson, 1998).

3. Thirdly, many access issues, including those designated “physical” (i.e. in the purview of both LSPVPDF and LSPDHHF forum concerns), are etiologically neurological: brain-based (Farmer, Donders, & Warschausky, 2006). Indeed, most, if not all access issues are an intricate, complicated web of diverse, but interrelated issues that all have learning, social, cognitive, and medical components. Multimorbidity is a very common occurrence, and with age, becomes a virtual norm (Schram, Frijters, van de Lisdonk, Ploemacher, de Craen, de Waal, et al. 2008).

Perhaps a paradigm shift would be beneficial to the cause. There is power in positive framing (Farstrup, 2004); positively naming and advocating for what people can do and what LIS professionals can do to provide high quality, universally accessible services and materials (evidenced-based interventions) for our diverse patrons with diverse access needs. To recall a couple of precedents: the once “ADA Assembly” now is ASCLA’s “Accessibility Assembly” and the LSSPS forum on aging issues now is the “Library Service to Older Adults with Special Needs Forum.” Positive wins, every time.

Armed with the ASCLA/LSSPS-authored ALA Accessibility Policy 54.3.2, all ASCLA and LSSPS members have the unique ability and expertise to come together as one to share the power of evidence-based Universal Design and Universal Design for Learning strategies with all ASCLA and ALA members, as well as with our patrons. With unity, comes sharing, and the ability to do more with less. The more sharing of information and ideas that occurs within ASCLA, the more power ASCLA has. The success of the ASCLA Century Scholarship diversity initiative is proof positive of the power of ASCLA unity and unified action. We in ASCLA, the home of the ALA expertise in accessibility and UDL, among so many other areas of LIS specialization, have the power. Let us use it wisely. Come join ASCLA.

Works Cited

1. CAST. (2008). Universal design for learning guidelines, Version 1.0. Retrieved from
2. Amtmann, D., & Johnson, K. (1998). Internet and information technologies: consumer empowerment. Technology and Disability, 8, 107-113.
3. Farmer, J. E., Donders, J., & Warschausky, S. A. (2006). Treating neurodevelopmental disabilities: clinical research and practice. New York: Guilford Press.
4. Farstrup, A.E. (2004). Clear, simple, positive: framing education issues. Reading Today, 22(1), 8.
5. Harniss, M., Amtmann, D., Cook, D., & Johnson, K. (2007). Considerations for developing interfaces for collecting patient-reported outcomes that allow the inclusion of individuals with disabilities. Medical Care, 45(5): (5 Suppl 1), S48-S54.
6. King, J. (2002). Using DVD feature films in the EFL classroom. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 15(5), 509-523.
7. Schram, M. T., Frijters, D., van de Lisdonk, E. H., Ploemacher, J., de Craen, A. J.M., de Waal, M. W. M., et al. (2008). Setting and registry characteristics affect the prevalence and nature of multimorbidity in the elderly. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 61(11), 1104-1112.
8. Snyder, J. (2006). Audio Description – An Aid to Literacy. Paper presented at the Languages and the Media,” the 6th International Conference & Exhibition on Language Transfer in Audiovisual Media, Berlin, Germany. Retrieved from
9. Snyder, J. (2007). Audio description: the visual made verbal. International Journal of the Arts in Society, 2(2), 99-104. Retrieved from
10. Walton, B. (2006). Thank you, Kenneth Branagh. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 49 (7; 7), 556-559.

Note: The author, a self-identifying member of the class, is an ASCLA LSSPS member, current Chair of the ASCLA Century Scholarship Committee, among ASCLA Century’s founders, and a member of the ASCLA Accessibility Assembly.