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Disability Awareness Month: Four Questions for Eric Eldritch of the Library of Congress

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Eric Eldritch
Eric Eldritch

Last year we presented a blog post on Deaf Culture for Deaf Awareness Month. One of the co-authors was Eric Eldritch. In honor of Disability Employment Awareness Month, we asked Eric several questions about his work helping the Library of Congress promote an understanding of people with disabilities as citizens, contributors and employees in a diverse world and inclusive workforce.

Describe what you do at the Library of Congress and the materials you work with.

My title at the Library of Congress is EEO Specialist/ADA Coordinator.  My work is to provide information, referral and technical assistance that supports the implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act at the Library of Congress. The Library provides accommodations for persons with disabilities who are visitors, researchers and employees by making facilities, programs and services accessible. Through these efforts, people with disabilities both participate in and contribute to the Library of Congress.

As a part of the ADA Working Group for the Library of Congress, we are making great efforts to provide education and support for access in all departments of the Library of Congress. I use materials readily found in our collections for understanding the whole array of disabilities in these categories: Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Blind, Legally Blind, Mobility, Dexterity, Medical, Mental Health and Cognitive disabilities. So much information is available today – more than ever before – because people with disabilities are finding employment and making a difference in our world everyday.

Do you have a favorite item from the Library’s online collections?

Several years ago we looked throughout the Library of Congress collections and found materials about and by people with disabilities. The Library created a webpage that lists these collections and webcasts.  I was amazed to find that so many collections chronicled the history and milestones of the lives of people with disabilities. One item from the Alexander Graham Bell collection shows Alexander Graham Bell, Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller all in one picture. What is surprising is that each of them are persons with disabilities themselves (respectively learning disability,  low vision and deaf blind).

I found that Jose Feliciano wrote a song ”No Dogs Allowed” after struggling to take his service dog on an international flight. My favorite items are those that point to individuals with disabilities that aren’t always acknowledged as disabilities: Harry Belafonte, Harriet Tubman, and Dorothea Lange (respectively learning disability, narcolepsy and polio).  Profiles of these notable people can be found on Disability Awareness website by clicking on the link “Find Out More About These Individuals.” If you would like this collection of profiles as a PDF you can find them here.

Share a time when an item from the collections sparked your curiosity.

I am continually amazed by the amount of materials that the Library of Congress provides for researching about people with disabilities and the growing field of Disabilities Studies. I learned so much working on a joint presentation on people with disabilities in film and media by the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) and the Library of Congress Motion Picture, Broadcast and Recorded Sound Division (LC/MBRS). Panelists explained that people with disabilities have been invisible, understated, or inflated in the public eye due to images which appear in film and television. The seminar sparked my interest listening and seeing an exchange of ideas.  Oh, another project, co-writing an article for this blog about Deaf History Month, led me into a variety of the Library’s collections to search for primary sources. I found the research process collaborating with librarians and deaf colleagues exciting. It resulted in the post for National Deaf History Month that appeared in this blog in March of last year.

What’s one thing you’d like to tell teachers about the materials that you work with?

When you scratch your head looking for materials to celebrate Disability Employment Awareness Month (honored annually in October), the Library of Congress has a treasure trove of materials right at your fingertips. The materials on this resource page and the page especially for teachers will provide a research adventure for teachers, librarians and students.


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