Appendix C: Disability Legislation and Academic Libraries

We are not lawyers, but we have been following legal cases as they
relate to disabilities and information technology.  The Office of Civil
rights has put out several findings that have implications for college
and university libraries.  We have selected the two that deal more
extensively with libraries.  In 1998, OCR issued a report on a survey it
conducted of California community colleges.  We will provide excerpts
from the cover letter and from the report summary.  Also, in 1997, OCR
issued a finding related to a complaint filed against California State
University Los Angeles.  We will quote this document in whole.  These
and some other related cases are on the web at

These make it clear that academic libraries are covered by disability
legislation including section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and also the
Americans with Disabilities Act.  Libraries are obliged to serve patrons
with disabilities and, to the extent reasonable, provide them with
services that are equal to that provided to all other patrons.  OCR is
defining the provision of adaptive technology to give access to
information technology to the obligation to provide ramps to give access
to buildings.  It urges that this be planned for in the beginning to
avoid expensive retrofitting.  It also emphasizes the need to provide
training to staff and to potential disabled users. These
accommodations must be part of an existing plan and not merely an
attempt to respond to requests when they occur.

The documents produced by OCR strongly suggest that libraries develop
close working relationships with the campus office that serves disabled
students.  Libraries cannot rely on that office to do its work as the
DSS staff lack librarian skills.  Nevertheless, OCR believes that
students will be served better if the library and the DSS office work


                       California Community Colleges
  January 22, 1998
 Thomas J. Nussbaum, Chancellor California Community Colleges 1107   
Ninth Street Sacramento, California 95814
 (In reply, please reference Case Docket No. 09-97-6001)
   Dear Chancellor Nussbaum:
 On March 26, 1996, the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil
 Rights (OCR) met with you and your staff to notify you that OCR was  
 beginning its college onsite visits in the statewide compliance review
 under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Title
 II) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504).
 This compliance review focuses on the status of community colleges in
 meeting their obligation under Title II and Section 504 to provide   
students with visual impairments access to print and computer-based   
information. The review examines whether students with visual
impairments, particularly blind students, are accorded an equal   
educational opportunity by California Community Colleges, or whether   
they are being discriminated against on the basis of their disability   
[34 C.F.R. , 104.4(a); 28 C.F.R. , 35.130]. Specifically, OCR is   
considering whether the Chancellor's Office employs "methods of   
administration"1 that have the effect of substantially impairing   
accomplishment of the objectives of the California Community Colleges   
educational program with respect to students with visual impairments   
[34 C.F.R. , 104.4(b)(4)2].


Consider for inclusion in the list of hardware/software products:   
large screen monitor, optical character recognition scanner, screen   
reader software, speech synthesizer, screen enlargement software,   
CCTV, Braille conversion/editing software, Braille printer. Colleges   
purchasing products pursuant to this arrangement will need appropriate  
staff training.


In addition to advanced training for DSPS/high tech specialists, as  
students with disabilities have exercised their right to access the   
mainstream educational program, libraries and department computer labs  
are becoming aware of the need to acquire onsite adaptive technology   
rather than merely refer students to the DSPS/high tech center, which   
does not have the capacity and is not funded to make all
technology/information on campus accessible. Thus, college staff   
outside DSPS/high tech center are requesting adaptive technology   
training, preferably focused on their unique needs.


VII. Library Access As a result of the Telecommunication and
Technology Infrastructure Program (TTIP) and other recent
initiatives, California Community College libraries are investing
significant funds in technology hardware/software acquisition. OCR
notes that the Chancellor's Office has been charged with developing
standards and  funding recommendations in the area of library
technology initiatives and electronic resources and technology human
resources training fund.
Traditionally, community college libraries have relied upon referring
students to DSPS as the exclusive method by which patrons with   
disabilities are served. On many campuses such referrals constitute   
the library's sole contact with the DSPS/high tech center. However,   
there are many ways in which DSPS Offices are not equipped to handle   
the broader access issues of the library, e.g., DSPS funding is   
restricted to expenditures directly related to the
instructional/curriculum needs of enrolled students (a narrower   
purpose than would cover the general services provided by the
community college library). A concerted effort needs to be made both
to alert community college libraries to their print/computer access  
responsibilities, and to acquaint them with resources available to   
assist in better serving patrons with disabilities.


DATE: January 22, 1998
SUBJECT: Review of California Community Colleges: Access of Visually
Impaired Students to Print and Computer based Information


Access to Library
During its onsite visits, OCR shared with librarians several ideas   
implemented at other colleges who successfully enable blind students   
to directly access, while remaining at the library, computer-based   
information and print-based information. In general, OCR found   
librarians eager for information on how to make their resources more   
available to patrons with disabilities, especially those with
print-impairments. With few exceptions, community college librarians
were unaware of numerous existing alternative format (e.g.,
audiotape, electronic text disk) lending resources which already
possess duplicate copies of some of the books stocked in print on community  
college library shelves.
Many California community colleges already had at least some
experience in providing onsite accommodation to persons with low   
vision. Specifically, a significant number of libraries possessed a   
CCTV unit, albeit often very old, that enlarges print placed under the  
magnifying lens. (A CCTV does not translate the print into digital   
text nor create an enlarged printout that the patron may take with   
him/her.) Librarians consistently mentioned they observed a wide range  
of patrons who regularly used low vision adaptive technology such as   
CCTV equipment and computer screen enlargement software. In other   
words, many library patrons who did not think of themselves as   
disabled found it convenient to be able to enlarge small print in   
books/computer programs. (This is sometimes referred to as the "curb   
cut" phenomena, where members of the general public find measures   
taken to accommodate persons with disabilities are useful for multiple  
purposes.) However, beyond a CCTV which exclusively benefits low   
vision (not blind) patrons and does not assist with access to
computer-based information, libraries had minimal experience with   
providing direct onsite accommodation to patrons with visual
The OCR onsite visit was frequently the first substantial interfacing
of the DSPS staff and the library staff, whose past practice has
often been to simply refer blind patrons to the DSPS office for
accommodation rather than attempt to directly serve such students at
the library site. In addition to the issue of timeliness (contrast   
referral to the DSPS Office with the quick convenience of onsite   
service enjoyed by nondisabled patrons), a library's practice of   
relying exclusively on the DSPS Office to handle accommodation   
requests creates a funding conflict. The DSPS Office is only funded to  
serve students enrolled at that campus, not members of the public,   
whereas all California Community College libraries are required to   
serve the larger public beyond that of students enrolled at the local   
campus. No community college library of which OCR is aware has tackled  
the issue of how to establish whether a patron requesting
accommodation has a qualifying disability when the patron is not a   
student and thus not registered at the college's DSPS Office.
In the last five years libraries at community colleges have been   
actively computerizing much of their reference materials. Almost every  
college has its card catalogue online, and most can access the card   
catalogue of other libraries via computer. Although new major
expenditures by libraries tend toward acquisition of computer-based  
information resources, the bulk of information owned by colleges   
libraries today is still encoded in hardcopy print (books). An   
increasing number of libraries find that placement in a public area of  
an optical character recognition scanner, to convert hardcopy print   
into synthesized speech and/or digital text, is essential if the   
library is to provide timely, effective service to blind patrons. A   
scanner operated by the blind patron enables librarians to usually   
dispense with arranging for personal readers to assist patrons with   
visual impairments. Comparable in many ways to xerox machines, most   
scanners installed in a user friendly manner can be successfully   
operated by blind patrons with minimal instruction.
Shortage of space and inability to safely secure expensive equipment
seemed uppermost in the minds of librarians contemplating onsite   
installation of adaptive technology. With regard to accessing
computer-based information (e.g., card catalogues, educational   
software programs, campus LAN, Internet), libraries which were already  
highly computerized did not report special security problems when   
adaptive technology software was simply installed on a computer set   
among several other mainstream computers. On the other hand, when the   
library set aside a specially purchased high quality computer that   
stood on its own or was significantly superior to any other computer   
in the vicinity, librarians generally felt the need to take particular  
security precautions especially during off-hours when the library was  
less populated.
With regard to the noise factor from synthesized speech generated by
computer screen reader software, a few libraries created a separate  
 room to set up adaptive technology, but the vast majority provided   
blind patrons with ear/headphones to prevent the sound of synthesized   
speech interrupting the quiet needed by other library patrons.   
Headphones and synthesized speech hardware were often kept at the   
reference desk for checkout by patrons with disabilities.
Several librarians mentioned that, once adaptive technology was   
installed, coordination with the DSPS Office became important to   
ensure that library patrons had already been trained in the use of   
adaptive technology prior to attempting to use the library's
equipment. A few DSPS Offices provide qualifying students with   
disabilities a small identification card to indicate to other campus   
departments, such as the library, on what adaptive technology the   
cardholder has been trained.
Finally, it must be noted that a disturbing number of community   
college libraries have a practice of informing students with visual   
impairments that accommodations are only available for reading   
materials assigned in a course in which the student is currently   
enrolled. Such practice clearly constitutes disparate treatment when   
nondisabled patrons are free to use the library's full resources for   
non-course related purposes.
Many community college libraries are already cooperatively working   
with other libraries (especially at four year universities) to   
dramatically enlarge the books available to patrons through book   
lending arrangements. However, virtually no community college library   
has begun a dialogue with nearby city/county public libraries or   
university libraries to determine the extent to which coordination   
around accessibility issues might be useful (e.g., regional/state card  
showing its holder has a print-impairment disability, regional/state   
system for locating a requested book in alternative format).


However, as the range of adaptive technology has become more complex
and specialized, the Center's limited funding has not enabled it to  
adequately serve the increased needs of the community colleges. In   
particular, more advanced training is needed for the high tech   
specialists working at many DSPS offices, and the opportunity to   
obtain introductory adaptive technology training should be extended to  
 non-DSPS staff (e.g., librarians, academic departmental
staff/technicians). OCR found that the already overextended high tech
specialists at the local High Tech Centers are in a limited position
to develop in depth training to meet highly specialized departmental  
needs (e.g., library access or educational software access needs of   
the math department).



April 7, 1997

Old Federal Building
50 United Nations Plaza, Room 239
San Francisco, California 94102

Dr. James. Rosser, President
California State University, Los Angeles
5151 State University Drive
Los Angeles, California 90032

(In reply, please refer to Case Docket No. 09-97-2002)

Dear President Rosser:

On October 8, 1996, the U.S. Department of Education (the
Department), Office for Civil Rights (OCR), received a complaint
against California State University, Los Angeles (the University)
alleging that the University is failing to provide access to blind and
low vision students with respect to its library resources,
campus publications, and its open computer laboratories located
within the various departments.  The complaint further alleged that
there is insufficient student training on adaptive technology for blind
users and that inadequate provisions are being made with
regard to computers for test-taking by blind students.

OCR is responsible for enforcing Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act
of 1973 (Section 504), and the Department implementing
Regulation at 34 Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) Part 104,
which prohibits recipients of Federal financial assistance from the
Department from discriminating on the basis of disability in
programs and activities.  OCR also has jurisdiction as a designated
agency under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of
1990, and the implementing Regulations at 28 C.F.R. Part 35, over
complaints alleging discrimination on the basis of disability filed
against public educational institutions, including public colleges and
universities.  Since the University receives Federal financial
assistance through the Department and is a public educational
institution, it is subject to OCR jurisdiction under both Section 504
and Title II, and the implementing Regulations.

Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (Title II) requires a
public college to take appropriate steps to ensure that
communications with persons with disabilities "are as effective as
communications with others" [28 C.F.R. ss 35.160(a)].  OCR has
repeatedly held that the term "communication" in this context means the
transfer of information, including (but not limited to) the
verbal presentation of a lecture, the printed text of a book, and the
resources of the Internet.  Title II further states that, in
determining what type of auxiliary aid and service is necessary, a
public college shall give primary consideration to requests of the
individual with a disability [28 C.F.R. ss 35.106(b)(2)].

In construing the conditions under which communication is "as
effective as" that provided to non disabled persons, on several
occasions OCR has held that the three basic components of
effectiveness are timeliness of delivery, accuracy of the
translation, and provision in a manner and medium appropriate to
the significance of the message and the abilities of the individual
with the disability.

The courts have held that a public entity violates its obligations
under the Americans with Disabilities Act when it simply responds to
individual requests for accommodation on an ad-hoc basis.  A
public entity has an affirmative duty to establish a comprehensive
policy in compliance with Title II in advance of any request for
auxiliary aids or services [see Tyler v. City of Manhattan, 857 F.
Supp. 800 (D. Kan. 1994)].  A recognized good practice in
establishing such a comprehensive policy is to consult with the
disability community, especially those members most likely to
request accommodations.

The magnitude of the task public entities now face in developing
systems for becoming accessible to individuals with disabilities,
especially with respect to making printed materials accessible to
persons with visual impairments, is comparable to the task
previously undertaken in developing a process by which buildings
were to be brought up to specific architectural standards for
access.  Buildings in existence at the time the new architectural
standards were promulgated are governed by "program access"
standards. However, buildings erected after the enactment of the new
architectural standards are strictly held to the new standards on the
premise that the builder is on-notice that such standards
apply.  One who builds in disregard of those standards is
ordinarily liable for the subsequent high cost of retrofitting.

Similarly, from the date of the enactment of Title II onwards, when
making purchases and when designing its resources, a public entity is
expected to take into account its legal obligation to provide
communication to persons with disabilities that is "as effective
as" communication provided to nondisabled persons.  At a minimum, a
public entity has a duty to solve barriers to information access that
the public entity's purchasing choices create, particularly
with regard to materials that with minimal thought and cost may be
acquired in a manner facilitating provision in alternative formats.
When a public institution selects software programs and/or hardware
equipment that are not adaptable for access by persons with
disabilities, the subsequent substantial expense of providing
access is not generally regarded as an undue burden when such cost
could have been significantly reduced by considering the issue of
accessibility at the time of the initial selection.

With respect to the question of when a public entity can require
the computer user with the disability to learn unfamiliar adaptive
technology software programs, when the user is already proficient in a
different program, it would seem reasonable to conclude that if the
public entity is employing a widely used program that is
generally regarded by knowledgeable experts as reliable for access by
persons with that type of disability (e.g., blindness), the
person with the disability may well be required to learn the
program selected by the institution.  On the other hand, if the
public institution has installed a program that is generally
regarded by knowledgeable experts as providing cumbersome inferior
access to persons with visual impairments, the person with the
disability may rely upon the Title II provision requiring that
"primary consideration" be given to his/her request for the
institution to purchase the software with which s/he is proficient.

With the forgoing as a foundation OCR provides the following
technical assistance on the subject of access to public library
(footnote 1) resources by visually impaired individuals.

When looking at exactly which of its resources a library is
obligated to provide in an accessible medium, the short answer is any
resources the library makes available to nondisabled patrons
must be made accessible to blind patrons.  This includes the
library catalogue, the archived microfiche, daily newspapers, and the
Internet (if that is a service provided to sighted patrons).
A categorical decision by a public library not to even consider a
request by a patron for a particular alternative format is in most
instances a violation of Title II.  However, when determining what
alternative format is most appropriate, a library may take into
account how frequently the material is used by patrons and the
longevity of the material's usefulness.  For instance, more serious
consideration should be given to translating into Braille
frequently used reference materials which have a long "shelf-life" than
would be true for daily newspapers.

Moreover, the basic purpose of the library may be taken into
account in shaping the library's obligations to make its resources
available to its patrons, including its patrons with disabilities.
"[U]like many public libraries which provide total information
services to the general public, the primary mission of the
University Library is to support and enhance the curricula of the
University.  Therefore, the University may, in appropriate
circumstances, allocate or set priorities in use of resources
consistent with the fundamental purpose of the University Library, but
may not condition access to services, such as the microfiche
collection, upon a showing of academic or course related relevance if
those services are available to nondisabled students without
such a showing" [OCR Case Docket No. 09-95-2056 (February 7,

Modern adaptive technology has radically affected the degree to
which it is economically feasible to make printed materials and
computer based information systems accessible to blind patrons.
The larger and more financially endowed the library, the higher the
expectation that a greater volume of information will be made
available within a shorter amount of time, particularly when
reasonably priced adaptive technology is available to replace tasks
that previously required personnel.  An important indicator
regarding the extent to which a public library is obligated to
utilize adaptive technology is the degree to which it is relying on
technology to serve its nondisabled patrons.  The more technology that
has been purchased by a public library to serve nondisabled
patrons, the more reasonable the expectation that it will employ
technology such as scanners to serve its patrons with disabilities. In
other words, a library's decision to purchase technology of any kind not
only creates an expectation that the newly purchased
technology will be accessible, but it suggests that the library now has
the resources and expertise to fully consider the role of
technology with regard to other aspects of its program.  A library that
has computerized its catalogue and has several computer
workstations offering the Internet may be expected to seriously
consider such items as an optical character
recognition scanner and/or screen reader with voice output for
inclusion in its technological acquisitions.

In most OCR cases, at any point prior to completion of the
investigative stage of the case, the college may indicate that it is
interested in exploring voluntary resolution of the issues
identified in the case.  A commitment by the college to voluntarily
resolve the issues usually substantially reduces the necessity for
further investigation and may eliminate the need for OCR findings of
compliance and/or noncompliance.  In this case, the University elected
to proceed toward voluntary resolution.

By letter dated February 6, 1997, OCR provided draft language that
would be sufficient, upon adoption by the University, to resolve
the issues in this case.  The University requested that the OCR
proposed date for University implementation of all steps necessary for
resolution of the issues (April 15, 1997) be extended (to June 30,
1997).  In a telephone conference on March 6, 1997, between OCR and the
University, the University indicated that it was already in the process
of resolving the issues, and that some steps could be completed sooner
than June 30, 1997.  By letter dated March 14,
1997, the University reiterated that all areas included in OCR
proposed resolution dated February 6, 1997, would be addressed by June
30, 1997, and that certain steps would be completed sooner (in fact, the
University maintains that some of the steps proposed by OCR are already
being implemented, e.g., most campus publications are available through
the network connection, as described in the University's previous letter
dated December 13, 1996).

OCR accepts the University's written commitment of March 14, 1997,
interpreted in the context of the OCR proposed resolution plan of
February 6, 1997, and the telephone conference of March 6, 1997, as
resolving the issues in this case.  A monitoring report documenting
that the University has fully addressed each of the areas (footnote 2)
set out in the OCR proposed resolution plan is due to OCR by
July 15, 1997.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, it may be necessary to
release this letter and related correspondence and records upon
request.  In the event that OCR receives such a request, it will
protect, to the extent provided by law, other personal information
which, if released, would constitute an unwarranted invasion of

If you have further questions regarding this letter, please contact Ms.
Cynthia Avila, Equal Opportunity Specialist, at (415) 437-7790 or Ms.
Sarah Hawthorne, Civil Rights Attorney, at (415) 437-7719.


Adriana Cardenas
Team Leader


1.   The U.S. Department of Education is the designated agency with     
responsibility for enforcing Title II as to public libraries,     
including public college libraries [28 C.F.R. ss

2.   To the extent offered to other students, the University is to     
provide blind students access to its computers/computer-based     
information systems (including access to the Internet and the     
campus network) in the library and open laboratories (Academic     
Technology Services Laboratory - ATS labs). Other issues to be
addressed include adequate training on adaptive technology for
students, provision of computer equipped with adaptive
technology in examination rooms, and distribution of a
Memorandum clarifying the use of tape recording in classroom     
as an accommodation.