This month, the IFLA Newsletter focuses on diversity, equity, and inclusion. It seems a good moment to explain why six IFLA committees are sponsoring a proposal to create an IFLA network dedicated to the topic of accessibility metadata. The Standing Committees of the IFLA sections – Audiovisual and Multimedia, Bibliography, Cataloguing, Libraries Serving Persons with Print Disabilities and Subject Analysis and Access – are joining with the Advisory Committee on Standards to address the need for reliable accessibility metadata. Accessibility metadata is information about the accessibility aspects of a resource, the features and hazards that are important for users with disabilities or special needs.

Why? Libraries are strong advocates for accessible design of spaces and signage, barrier-free physical environments, and a pro-active welcome for all users. Does this welcome extend to the resource discovery experience of disabled users? We respect the right of users to search and identify the resources they want independently, not relying on the mediation of others. The nature of a library catalogue is to provide sufficient metadata that a user can explore and navigate on their own. But if, for example, you are print disabled, how easy is it to identify resources that match your needs? Are remediated resources findable in the catalogue? Is it clear when a resource is accessible? Accessibility metadata is not always present; when it is present, it is not always displayed, and it is not necessarily consistent; this metadata may also not be indexed to allow for searching or filtering. There are many challenges and few guidelines for our library communities around the globe.

The group has grown to close to sixty people who share a commitment to develop some form of guidance for recording and using accessibility metadata. It includes IFLA members and volunteers as well as experts from external organizations who serve persons with disabilities or create resources for them. IFLA is the appropriate umbrella organization for this work because one of its core values is β€œthe belief that people, communities and organizations need universal and equitable access to information, ideas and works of imagination for their social, educational, cultural, democratic and economic well-being.” For libraries to give universal and equitable access to resources, we must also be addressing the discovery experience of diversely abled users.