December 5, 2006
ABA Report on Lawyers with Disabilities Includes Recommendations for Law Librarians
The ABA has issued a report on lawyers with disabilities, which stems from a conference co-sponsored by the Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
One ABA recommendation for law schools strikes at the heart of our mission as law librarians:
Work with the publishing industry to provide materials—e.g., textbooks, handouts, presentations, syllabi, and other school related products—in alternative formats. (at 69)
Our Experience with Disability Accommodation.
At Cincinnati Law, Ron Jones and I have been working with a blind 1L student this year. Our profs are doing an excellent job at providing handouts, syllabi, and other course-related materials they produce in a format that is JAWS friendly but we are disturbed by the difficulty we have experienced in obtaining course books in alternative formats from legal publishers. Most of the time we can obtain a PDF copy of a course book but those PDFs then have to be converted by hand into a format that can used by our student (e.g., a Word document). You can imagine the amount of work our University's Disability Services Department puts in and the delays this causes. No legal publisher we have worked with appears to have a straight-forward formalized sales process or inventory to accommodate our requests in a timely manner. In our opinion, this is unacceptable.
We are also disturbed by the online services provided by Lexis and Westlaw. The graphical interfaces are not accessible for blind students. Westlaw provides a text-based online search service but we have received antidote evidence that the text-based version of Westlaw is not always current. Our company representatives have been very helpful in providing specialized training but when Lexis is essential inaccessible and Westlaw's currency is in doubt, neither company can be said to be doing what is necessary to accommodate blind students.
Ron Jones and I recognize that our opinions may be partially the result of our limited experience in this area so we welcome your suggestions and advice. Please email them to me at email@example.com. Ron is also doing preliminary research for a possible article on this topic. He would welcome hearing about your library's own experiences and best practices suggestions. You may email Ron at firstname.lastname@example.org. [JH]
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