Meet the 2020 Section Leadership

Jessica Chapel (she/her) is the Librarian/Archivist for Digital Projects in the Harvard Law School Library, where she works to make collections more accessible. She earned her MS in Library and Information Science from Simmons University in 2019.

My interest in serving on the Accessibility & Disability Section steering committee grows out of experiences both personal and professional. I believe that addressing issues related to accessibility and disability are essential to building equitable and inclusive spaces and collections, and my goals for the section include creating more awareness about accessibility and disability in the archives and motivating our colleagues to engage for meaningful change.

Veronica Denison (she/her) is currently an archivist at  Kansas State University, she received an MLS with a concentration in archives management from Simmons College in 2013. 

In 2016, I fell while hiking, shattering the radial head and tearing a ligament in my right arm. One of the first thoughts after it happened was, "What about my job?" I was unable to use my arm off and on for two years because of surgeries I needed, and my job was unable to provide much accommodation because of budget issues. We had to fight so I could have a student worker part of the time to help me lift. I also couldn't type for much of this time. I still have issues with my arm and am unable to fully use it or straighten it. I am very interested in this topic within our profession, and really want to advocate on behalf of disabled archivists. While I was interviewing for new positions this past year I was afraid of being asked the question, "Can you lift 40 pound boxes?" because my answer is, "It depends." I feel like it's a topic that really needs to be addressed in our field and we need to determine how we can make it better for others. I love the idea of this new section to advocate for accessibility in the archives, not only for our users but for archivists as well. I would enjoy being a part of it, and think it's important to reach out to community members to gain knowledge from their experiences.

Jade Finlinson (she/her) is an archives consultant and independent scholar. She earned her MLIS from UCLA in 2017, and has since worked primarily in contract project archivist or internship positions while continuing to consult independently with nonprofit arts organizations and smaller archives in the Los Angeles area and in Southeastern Utah. Her years of experience employing primary source materials for innovative research and creative public programming have informed her independent scholarship in visual culture and historical subjects. She lives with a spinal cord injury as a result of being hit by a drunk driver in 2005.

As a primary source researcher and new archives professional who also relies on a wheelchair for mobility, I am excited to be in a position to advocate for change in this area. I hope to promote discussions about how broadly defined words such as ‘disability’ or ‘accessibility’ can be understood by all of us, for everyone’s benefit. I joined the steering committee with several goals, including the intention of learning from my section colleagues about issues they face and help create an open forum in which we can seek to understand and challenge barriers to accessibility in our field. We must work together to forward an agenda that considers and defines our specific needs, recognizes those needs as a part of our personhood, urges us to advocate for ourselves as being essential parts of our institutions, and supports us in making our institutions more accessible and accepting. A personal goal for participating in the steering committee centers on making myself a more open and compassionate colleague when discussing disability and accessibility in the workplace. I look forward to working with fellow archivists to exterminate stigma around invisible disabilities and illnesses that require understanding from colleagues and the public. I hope my perspective as an archivist with a complex physical disability can be an asset to the section during this important first stage of development, and my experiences negotiating professional situations and advocating for myself will inspire others to do the same for themselves.

Michelle Ganz (she/her) is the archives director for William McDonough, creating a unique living archive. She received her MLIS from the University of Arizona and her BA from the Ohio State University. She has been a professional archivist for 12 years. 

As someone who was born with an invisible disability, I’m severely hard of hearing, I have always been an advocate for myself. I have had the honor to be part of the push for more visibility and support for disabled archivists and archives within the SAA and the profession over the course of my career. The formation of this section has been the latest step in that push. It is my greatest wish to see this section become a driver of accessibility in the profession.

Bridget Malley (she/her) is a recent graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has worked with the Western Pennsylvania Disability History and Action Consortium (WPDHAC) - a clearinghouse for disability history records in the region - since January 2019. In the process, she collaborates with disability rights activists and researchers in her region as they work to preserve and share their unique stories.

Bridget has severe to profound hearing loss and has worn hearing aids since she was a child. Her hope for this section is that together, we can change the way archives think about accessibility:

  • That it must be built into the framework of archival access from the beginning, rather than tacked on only when necessary. 
  • That it must be implemented now rather than put off indefinitely.
  • And that ethical archival practice must include efforts to ensure accessibility.

If those of us with disabilities are not documented in the records themselves nor adequately represented in the archival profession, then where is the largest minority group in relation to the historic record?

Cheryl Oestreicher is the Head of Special Collections and Archives/Associate Professor at Boise State University. She has a PhD in Modern History and Literature from Drew University and an MLIS from Dominican University.

Through writing the Archival Fundamental Series III edition of Reference and Access for Archives and Manuscripts, my involvement with revising the joint statement on access, as well as my work in my current position, I constantly think about access and accessibility. I am very supportive of the work done so far, and also recognize how much more there is to do. Access is the cornerstone of my philosophical approach to my work and I am often analyzing what else we can do to make our collections, services, and resources more broadly available to wider audiences no matter what their needs. Working in academia, I also see a wide variety of needs from our students. While that doesn't represent the entire population, the university seeks out ways to improve experiences for those with disabilities or other accessibility needs. I believe SAA, through this section, has the opportunity to change professional expectations and practices and I am interested in helping establish how that will unfold.

Lindy Smith (she/her) is Head of LaBudde Special Collections at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She has previously worked as an archivist at Bowling Green State University's Music Library and Bill Schurk Sound Archives and the Ohio State University Archives. She has a bachelor's of music in music history and literature from Bowling Green State University and master's degrees in library and information science and musicology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

I first became interested in improving accessibility in libraries and archives when I received website creation training in grad school and was introduced to government mandated accessibility measures. Going forward, I tried to keep these in mind when making any new web content. As a staff member at BGSU, I served on a task force to assess our web content against the standards established by Section 508 of the ADA and had the opportunity to dig even deeper into this topic. I've presented on AV accessibility features and am very interested in improving accessibility of both physical and digital collection materials to our patrons. I would like this section to serve as a reminder that accessibility is everyone's job and it should be a non-negotiable consideration in all projects. I would also like to see the section serve as a resource for the profession to make doing the right thing simpler, more accessible, and work to establish accessibility as innate to the archival profession. Specifically, I think it would be great to create lists of guidelines, resources, and tools that archivists can plug in to their existing workflows to make accessibility part of everything they do. I'd also like to see the section evaluate archivally related products for accessibility and serve as an advocate with vendors to make sure they're not only taking accessibility into consideration as part of their R&D, but making it explicitly clear how they address it.

Dr. Lydia Tang (she/her) has been the Special Collections Archivist-Librarian at Michigan State University since 2015. She holds multiple leadership positions with ArchivesSpace and SAA in the Privacy and Confidentiality Section, Collection Management Tools Section, the Task Force to Revise Best Practices on Accessibility, and the Task Force to Revise the Joint Statement on Access. She has an MLIS and doctor of musical arts from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is a Certified Archivist.

My husband is legally blind and uses a screen reader. Since knowing him, my eyes have been opened to issues large and small which can keep him and others with vision disabilities from being able to know what I do, and experience what I love. Since then, I have been working from many angles, from locally at my institution to on a national level, to improve the ability for everyone to access and enjoy archives in the reading room and digitally. I am thrilled for the interest in accessibility and disability representation in archives, and am honored to be a founding co-chair in this inaugural year of the section.

Chris Tanguay (she/they) is a processing associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Department of Distinctive Collections. She graduated from Simmons College with an MSLIS in 2012. Chris serves on the MIT Libraries’ Committee for the Promotion of Diversity and Inclusion, where she hopes to improve accessibility for everyone. In the archives field, she has contributed code to ArchivesSpace to bring contrast on PDF exports up to W3CAA standards.

I have a deep interest in issues of accessibility and universal design. In addition, I’m a big proponent of destigmatizing invisible disabilities and making workplaces and public spaces friendlier. I hope that A&DS will help create guidelines for SAA and archival institutions to increase their accessibility, from physical spaces to online content.

Zachary Tumlin (he/his) is currently a Barcoding Assistant at the Folger Shakespeare Library. He holds a MLIS in archives and digital curation from UMD and a BM in music education from WVU. He is a former middle school band director and hopes to become a performing arts/music archivist/librarian. He is an Autistic self-advocate who has published and spoken on neurodiversity and disability.

It is important to me that disability is included in diversity, equity, and inclusion conversations and efforts. I am interested in neurodiversity because of my own neurodivergence and the challenges that come with having a “hidden” disability rooted in the mind. I focus on employment and policy/law because I have struggled (and still am struggling) to find substantive employment in my chosen field after earning each of my degrees. Autism (and now neurodiversity) based hiring programs are starting to become more common, but they almost exclusively exist in the tech sector, where they help to increase profit margins. There is nothing for someone in the arts and humanities like me, even though cultural heritage institutions are sometimes recommended as good places to work because of the work environment and nature of the work (I would also argue that throughout history, creativity, the arts, and neurodivergence are intertwined). A GLAM does not sit on the Autism @ Work Roundtable and hiring programs in GLAMs have been at the micro scale--self-reported case studies about the hiring of one or two people (sometimes only part-time and/or temporary). This does little to address the unemployment rate for disabled people, which is double to triple that of the general population, with the majority of Autistics being unemployed. GLAMS and their professional organizations have diversity scholarships and hiring programs that are anything but diverse when they only include race/ethnicity, and they give the impression of simply trying to look more inclusive. I would like to see this section push for the employment of disabled people and support for disabled people already employed (and possibly closeted), and form partnerships with other professional organizations in the field, disability rights organizations, and employers.

Lauren White (she/her) is an Archivist at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library, where she is currently developing a subject guide for collections related to disability history and the disability rights movement in the 1970s. She has an MSI from the University of Michigan and BAs in English and Spanish from the University of Southern Mississippi.

In a previous institution, the University of Toledo, I spent four years developing disability rights-related collections and collaborating with and learning from faculty in the Department of Disability Studies. This exposure to the formal study of disability history and culture was invaluable in broadening my knowledge on issues and the language/culture of accessibility. 

It frustrates me that most archival collections and spaces are not truly accessible to people with disabilities (including archivists). ADA-compliant doors do not an accessible reading room make: the space itself is not the only barrier to access. It is my hope that this new Accessibility and Disability section will give archivists a formal means of discussing and raising awareness of issues of accessibility across our institutions. In joining the Steering Committee, I would like to lay the foundation for a successful section with a clear mission and set of achievable initial goals that will inspire future members to act to ensure accessibility is not an afterthought in the archival community. Our collections are kept to be used, after all, and removing barriers improves that access for all.

Sara White co-chaired the recent Task Force to Revise Best Practices for Working with Archives Employees and Archives Researchers with Physical Disabilities and also served on the original Archives Management/Records Management Joint Working Group on the Accessibility in Archives and Records Management. She worked as an archival assistant at the Wisconsin Historical Society. She earned her MA in library and information studies with an archives concentration from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and a BA in history from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs.

Serving on the Accessibility and Disability steering committee sparked my interest because I would like to share information I gained while serving on a past SAA working group and the more recent task force both focused on archival accessibility. I would offer insight on the development of the mission statement and standard rules/by-laws, advocating on the focus of onsite and online accessibility and the documentation of people with disabilities. These topics need to be on-going areas of research with altering projects. The design and approval of such projects will also require the steering committee to consider including in the standard rules/by-laws additional contributing fields such as informational technology, designers, historians and others in areas associated with disabilities as legitimate partners. These professions can provide knowledge to help advance archival accessibility and the documentation of people with disabilities. The importance of these topics require continual research and advocacy to maintain updated standards in both areas. While people with disabilities today are now a diverse cultural group and no longer a hidden population, both are part of history deserving documentation that needs to be accessible for all.