By: J.D. Ross
(315) 443-3094

Over the next three weeks, more than 100 K-12 librarians and educators across New York state will come to the School of Information Studies (iSchool) to participate in a continuing education program called Project ENABLE.  The main goal of this program is to guide these professionals in developing library and information services for students with disabilities.

This collaborative project is the work of Syracuse University’s Center for Digital Literacy and the Burton Blatt Institute (BBI). Assistant Professor Renee Franklin Hill of the iSchool, and BBI Director of Legal Research and Writing William Myhill will conduct workshops focusing on disability awareness, inclusive curriculum development, and accessible technology. Session participants will also learn how to create inclusive lesson plans and learning materials for their libraries and schools.

The series of week-long classes is funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and was created in response to the findings of an IMLS-backed study conducted from 2006-2009 by researchers at the Center for Digital Literacy. The study investigated the impact of a variety of library and information services on student learning and motivation in New York State schools. According to Myhill, the results of the study showed that many librarians felt unprepared to work with disabled students.

Myhill explained that once finished with the program, Project ENABLE participants will be “taking back specific plans that are goal and objective oriented as to how they’re going to make their libraries [and classrooms] more effective places for students with disabilities to learn.”

Additionally, once participants return to their districts, they will continue to have connections with one another via a class wiki. “We’re going to create a space where they can communicate with each other and share the challenges and successes they have had when they start to implement action plans and lesson plans in their schools,” says Hill.

Hill also notes that information taught in some Project ENABLE sessions will be used in “creating a [future iSchool] class on serving students with disabilities in libraries. We’ll be using modules of information from these sessions to build that class,” explains Hill. The upcoming class is a result of new requirements in the New York State education curriculum. Hill states that “this class will be required for our school library students, as it is now a state mandate that every program that leads to certification in the K-12 schools must have a stand-alone course that deals with students with disabilities.”