The Philosophy of Project ALFA
Project ALFA is founded on a philosophy of universal access. The premise underlying the universal access philosophy is to move from a legal definition of disability to a more inclusive definition that embraces persons with mild to moderate impairments. This premise is couched in international definitions of disability that are informed by social and cultural conditions rather than limited by medical qualification. Universal access expands the traditional definition of disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which limits focus to persons with severe impairments, to incorporate disruptive conditions that impact information access. Project ALFA personnel refer to persons with mild to moderate impairments as the extra-legally ably-challenged (ELAC) population. Mild impairments normally commence at age 45 as part of the natural aging process and continue as aging occurs with progression to moderate as experienced at age 80 and beyond. Members of the Baby Boomer generation (born 1945 - 1964) are hitting the age of 65 at a rate of 8,000 people per day. Today a 65 year-old can expect to live to the age of 83, while many may live well into their 90s. The library and information professions will be called to serve the booming population of aging clientele for the next three decades (2011 - 2041). 21st century skills incorporated into library and information science (LIS) coursework will provide the knowledge base for the next generation of library and information professionals who will lead universal access libraries and information agencies geared at serving the fully-abled, legally disabled, and ELAC library users.
It is designed to develop a new generation of highly skilled information professionals to work with clientele of diverse backgrounds, abilities, and age. Internships, fieldwork, and service learning projects allow ALFA Fellows to make a transition from classroom knowledge to applied experience putting learning into action. An emphasis on technologies for information access, including hardware, software, and Web 2.0 tools will be an integral part of the ALFA experience. Project ALFA is funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), a U.S. government agency.