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Catching Up, and Disability Employment Awareness Month

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Well, I’ve been a very bad blogger. But we’ve been pretty busy around here.

Let’s see, what have we been up to? Well, we’ve begun taking a little bit of the Library on the road — first in Fort Lauderdale Sept. 19 and next in Denver on Oct. 27 (with Dallas, San Francisco and Los Angeles to follow).

You might have heard that we recently had a little get-together with about 120,000 of our closest friends. Our terrific team made more than 70 webcasts from the National Book Festival available in record time! You can watch your favorite authors here.

We’re getting close to some exciting Web 2.0 announcements, which we will be sure to bring you as soon as they’re ready. I also expect we’ll see a report relatively soon about our Flickr pilot project.

Our new Poet Laureate opened the literary season last night to an overflow crowd. (I’ve never seen so many people try to get into the Mumford Room!) Kay Ryan read and spoke for about an hour and then mingled afterward and signed books; the crowd was extremely entertained. One thing I was struck by was how very young the audience seemed (I was surrounded by teens), which I think is a good sign for future generations of poetry lovers.

I also had the tremendous pleasure earlier this week of attending a taped interview of Kay Ryan and the Librarian of Congress with Charlie Rose in New York, which we believe should air sometime next week. I won’t spoil it, but I don’t ever remember seeing Charlie laugh so much during an interview — it was a great discussion, and a lot of fun!

I completely neglected to blog about Hispanic Heritage Month (VERY bad blogger!), but I will point out, albeit a couple of days late, that the Library and some of our federal colleagues worked on a great Web site here.

And thanks to Audrey Fischer in my office, I can bring you a little report on Disability Employment Awareness Month, after the jump.

To mark its celebration of Disability Employment Awareness Month, the Library launched a new Web site at The site notes upcoming events as well as Library resources pertaining to disability history (e.g., the Alexander Graham Bell Family Papers and the contributions of Thomas Edison.)

The site also includes a “Featured Profile” on Stevie Wonder, who became blind shortly after birth. The latest in his long list of honors and awards was the Sept. 2 announcement that Wonder will receive the Library’s second Gershwin Prize for Popular Song in February 2009.

The Library earned high praise a few days ago from Marian Vessels, director of the Mid-Atlantic ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) Center, who delivered the keynote address for Disability Employment Awareness Month. “The Library has a long and proud history of full inclusion of people with disabilities as visitors and employees,” she said “You are a model.”

She cited numerous examples, from the Library’s books for the blind program that dates back to the 1930s to its Web site, which is accessible all over the world. She also noted the Library’s Assistive Technology Center that is at the forefront of exploring and making available adaptive equipment, its emergency preparedness program that makes provisions for the disabled, and the new Library of Congress Experience ( that enables “people with all types of abilities to experience the Library.”

Vessels praised the Library’s universal design approach, whereas many other exhibitions are designed to be viewed by people who can stand. In addition to causing “sore necks” among persons with disabilities, she noted another flaw in this approach.

“Children are my height,” said Vessels, who is in a wheelchair. “Do we really want to exclude them? Short little people won’t grow up to be patrons of the arts.”

Comments (5)

  1. Thank you for the mention of the Library’s celebration of October as Disability Employment Awareness Month.

    As a retired journalist, and Hill staffer for over 20 years, I have always appreciated the preeminent role of the Library in employing and paying attention to the workplace needs of people with disabilities–from the early days with braille services, up to its use of the latest electronic technology for communications by and for people with physical and cognitive disabilities.

    The general public is not always aware of the contributions made by people with disabilities. This month’s focus on the life work of Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Helen Keller, Senator Daniel Inoyue and Stevie Wonder exemplify the leading role which the Library and people with disabilities can play to increase public and business awareness of the contributions made by people with disabilites to our society in general.

    In particular, as you noted, the Library’s Assistive Technology Center is at the forefront of exploring and making available adaptive equipment, facilities and processes so that its employees of all abilities can fulfill their true potential.

    “Talent has no Boundaries…'” is indeed an apt summation of the work being done here, and the Library is to be commended for leading the way.

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