Skip to main content

Educators & Students with Learning Disabilities: For Librarians

Useful for elementary and secondary administrators, librarians, classroom teachers, and parents and students with Learning Disabilities

"Equal Access" and Libraries

Equal Access & School Libraries

Students with disabilities are required by law (IDEA and Section 504)  to have "equal access." For School Libraries, the areas of access can be sorted into categories:

  1. Equal access to facilities
  2. Equal access to services
  3. Equal acces to collections 
  4. Equal access to--and through the use of--technology

LD Links for Librarians

LD Links for Librarians

Libraries & Learning Differences

Disability Awareness

For School Librarians

How can the school librarian provide services to this population and make the resources as valuable, accessible, and useful to them as to any other student?

These students learn differently, so they need to be taught differently. Most of them have a combination of learning disabilities and LDs with related disorders, and can be overwhelmed by the typical school library or research assignment--its large selection of books, journals, and magazines, its lack of material in an appropriate format, a librarian or library clerk who does not know how to provide more appropriate material, and a library website that is overwhelming and laborious to navigate.

The goal is to apply the principles of Universal Design for Instruction to Information Literacy. To incorporate alternate means of acquiring information, processing information, and presenting knowledge. Not to make the class aware that there is "someone" who needs to be taught differently and has options in how their knowledge is presented. There are always undiagnosed students with learning differences and those who simply learn better with different styles, and all will benefit with UDIL.

IEPs. Teacher-librarians need to be briefed about the IEP's of the LD-certified students at the beginning of the school year,  just as the classroom teachers.  

Facilities & Program

  • Sufficient lighting
  • Hand magnifiers
  • Large easy to read signage, incorporate images
  • Structured routines
  • Have individual "walk through" of library procedures, practicing routines with students with certain LDs 


  • One of the challenges of librarians is providing reading material, both fiction and classified, that is appropriate for the reading level but is also appropriate for the age level.
  •  An advantage of databases and audio-books is that the same material can be presented in a format that is skill-appropriate and not "speaking down" to the student.  
  • Choose databases that have the ability to have texts read to the student, preferably not by digitized voices.
  • Choose databases that are designed with a lot of white-space, with pages that are clean and not competing.
  • Choose databases that are clear and easy to maneuver.

AudioBooks +

  • Shelve audio-book and large type versions on same shelf space as print versions.
  • eBooks, graphic novels, Playaways
  • Closed-captioned videos, streaming videos, podcasts
  • Provide a wide range of levels.
  • Provide non-fiction titles as well as fiction.
  • See the Audiobooks Tab for options, free and fee.

Textbooks downloaded or on CD

  • Learning Ally (formerly RFB&D--Recordings for the Blind & Dyslexic) provides textbooks and class books that may be downloaded and on CD, played on special daisy-wheel CD players.
    • Low fee individual subscriptions to students who qualify
    • School subscriptions, with fee
    • Elementary through college material

Multisensory presentation of material

  • Written instructions--avoid glossy paper, avoid italics, all capitals, bold font, use sans-serif (Tahoma, Arial), 18 pt
  • Fewer words on a line, spacing of lines 1.5
  • Verbal instructions
  • Video & Audio--have transcript or captioning
  • Powerpoint, OPAC, and database instruction presentations--include print copy and email copy
  • Manipulatives
  • Movement .

Library Website

  • Take thought in designing your website--with white space, ease of use, limit choices, and clear access.
  • Avoid italics, all capitals, bold font, use sans-serif (Tahoma, Arial), 18 pt
  • No pop-ups, flashing graphics
  • Make sure images have text embedded.
  • Link to specific resource for a class instead of a home page that might not be LD user-friendly.

All of the teaching accommodations also apply to the Teacher Librarian.


Dewey PictogramLibraries are using pictograms to help library users, including those with learning differences, those for whom English is not their native language, and those who are adult learners, navigate the Dewey Decimal System.

The pictograms are excellent examples of universal access. Download the pictograms from the link below.


Universal Design for Information Literacy

Focus is on post-secondary education, incorporating UDI and the ACRL Standards. Landmark College, Putney, VT

"The burden of adaptation should be first placed on the curriculum, not the learner. Because most curricula are unable to adapt to individualized differences, we have come to recognize that our curricula, rather than out students, are disabled."

  • See Possible Violations & Possible Solutions for Universal Design in the Library to give you some idea of where you can improve!
  • Useful Universal Design for Libraries Checklist

Librarians--How we apply UD Information Literacy Principles--A Summary Outline of above SlideShare presentation: (slides 22+)

  • Equitable Use
  • Flexibility in Use
  • Simple and intuitive instruction
  • Perceptible Information
  • Tolerance for error
  • Low physical effort
  • Size and space for approach and use
  • A community of learners
  • Instructional climate

image - tutorial


Click the link below to view the video from New York's Scotch Pine Public Library and Fanwood Memorial Library. "The goal of this customer service training video is to heighten library staff awareness of issues related to the autism community and empower them to provide better service to this growing population."