University of Texas at Arlington Libraries launch first Texas History of Disability website

Americas, October 30 2016

The University of Texas at Arlington Libraries announced a new website showcasing the Texas Disability History Collection on October 26.

Documents, videos, images and oral histories emphasizing the work of various disability advocates who were students, faculty or staff at UTA are featured.

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UTA’s Freewheelers (wheelchair basketball team) during game action, Glen Williamson and Brian Welnack pictured. University of Texas at Arlington, Special Collections. ©2016

The site also reaches beyond the University’s walls to include images and documents on the local, state, regional and national levels.

“UTA Libraries is the only repository in the state focused on collecting Texas disability history materials,” said Brenda McClurkin, department head of the UTA Libraries Special Collections. “In addition to documenting UTA’s pre-eminent role in making higher education accessible to students with disabilities, the Texas Disability History Collection is comprised of materials in wide-ranging formats including maps, government reports, graphics, photographs and artifacts drawn from collections of personal papers and organizational records, University archives, Texas Labor archives, the Texas Political History Collection, and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram archives. The compilation provides a historical perspective into the 19th century and earlier.”

The collection contains many items highlighting the work of Sam Provence and Jim Hayes, UTA alumni who worked tirelessly to promote accessibility in higher education. The Movin’ Mavs men’s wheelchair basketball team is prominently featured, showcasing the University’s leadership in the adapted sports movement.

The Texas Disability History Collection website,, is funded through a $25,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act.

The grant focused on the development of the website with accessibility as the forefront.

“We wanted to stretch beyond the state mandate regarding website accessibility and did so through specialized usability testing and conversations with the Office for Students with Disabilities Adaptive Resource Center,” said Ramona Holmes, head of the UTA Libraries Digital Creation Department.

In addition to accessible coding techniques and visual design, all documents were scanned with optical character recognition software, then unrecognized text was entered manually.

Synchronized subtitles were provided for videos and text transcripts for audio files. Additionally, the staff in the Disability Studies Minor program provided guidance in the selection of materials and website development.

A related physical exhibit called “Building a Barrier-Free Campus” is currently on view in the Central Library’s Sixth Floor Parlor.

The exhibit explores how UTA became a model accessible campus for students with disabilities starting in the mid-1960s — a time when disabled students had no right to attend K-12 schools or college. An expanded online version will accompany the physical exhibit in late 2016.

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