Accomodations

Question

We are a small, urban, very diverse school district with a large English Language Learner (ELL) population and a high poverty rate. Our school library spaces are small and do not have adjoining meeting rooms. There is no dedicated prayer/meditation space in our schools either.

Answer

In the United States, public schools that accept federal funding are barred from restricting student access to generally available space on the basis of “religious, political, philosophical…” beliefs.[1]


Question

We have a large facility. Sometimes patrons have to walk far to get to various programs and spaces. We have had a few patrons in the recent couple of months ask if we have a wheelchair or walker they could use to help them get around. We consulted with our insurance provider about this and he basically said to ask a lawyer.

Answer

This is such a beautiful idea! In my experience, there are three things that often impede beautiful ideas:

  1. Insurance concerns;
  2. Legal concerns; and
  3. People who worry that there might be insurance or legal concerns.

This question shows how to protect an idea from these impediments:


Question

Sometimes, people nap in the library, particularly people who we believe might not have stable or sufficient housing. We feel that a library should not exclude people who need a secure place to rest, so long as there is no interference with library operations, but are there any legal considerations to this issue?

Answer

This is a VERY sensitive issue. There are many factors that could contribute to a person sleeping in a public space, including:


Question

My institution subscribes to the "Kurzweil Reading Program", a "Text-to-Speech" product for those with reading impairments (dyslexia, English language learners, blind/vision impaired, etc.)

Section 121 indicates these users are "eligible persons" for "fair use", but others, without such disabilities could use the program (like an audiobook in the car!).

Answer

This question reflects the level of savvy "Ask the Lawyer" readers bring to their submissions.  The member submitting the question has already set out (in a manner much more succinct than I usually achieve) the interplay of:


Question

Students in a school are reading a simultaneous use eBook. The students with IEPs[1] have access to a screen reader but this feature is very robotic and doesn't meet their needs. The school librarian and the School Library System searched for an audio version of this book but could not find one for purchase.

Answer

The school may be covered by Fair Use but for this scenario, it doesn't need to be in order to make the recording proposed by the member.

Why?


Question

We had a patron come in this past week who said that he couldn't see well and also couldn't type or use a mouse, but he needed to certify Unemployment Insurance. He asked the staff member to login with his username and password and do this for him, and the staff member was, understandably, uncomfortable doing it.

Answer

At first glance, this question seems simple: what are the possible legal risks to a librarian helping a patron fill out a legal document?

But within this question lies another, slightly more complex issue: when does good customer service become an accommodation for a disability?


Question

When publishing Oral Histories to a Digital Exhibit, such as Omeka, are we required by ADA to include a full transcription of the interview in the metadata? Is a Time Summary sufficient?

Answer

Ugh.

Not only is the answer to this “maybe,” but I am afraid the answer is actually “maybe maybe.”  And it might even have to be “Maybe maybe maybe, maybe.”  But hang in there, because I think I can still give you some solid information in reply! (Maybe.)


Question

We have a pretty exhaustive personnel policy on the use/limits of use of Library technology and property, both for compliant work-related purposes and for personal purposes.

What we do *not* have, and are wondering if we should, is a policy that speaks to the permitted (or restricted) uses of *personal* phones and similar devices while at work.

Answer

On the surface, this is a simple issue: if people are using their cell phone for personal use on the job, a simple policy to stop the use should solve the problem, right?

Not these days.


Question

What does ADA say about providing fragrance free bathrooms in public libraries? Our reasonable accommodation to a patron with fragrance sensitivity issues was to take the fragrance dispenser out of the public unisex bathroom. Are we in compliance?

Answer

It makes sense that “Ask the Lawyer” gets a lot of Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) related questions.  After all, both the ADA and libraries work to reduce barriers—barriers to information, barriers to education, and barriers to services/employment.   

The issue of fragrance sensitivity and ADA compliance brings unique challenges. 


Question

Greetings. We have used an ASL Interpreting service a few times over the past few months and have had a situation occur twice where the patron cancelled their visit with our library 2 hours before the appointed time. The service we are using requires a 48 hour cancellation notice or else we get invoiced for full service.

Answer

This question has two parts, so I will re-state them for clarity:

Is it legal to forward that charge on to the patron as they are the party who cancelled the service?

Answer: no.