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Humanities Roundtable 2020: Building Diversity, Building Accessibility, Building Better

Virtual Conference


The theme of this year’s Humanities Roundtable is building better — better diversity, better accessibility, better technology — in order to develop a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable humanities community. From the complexities of controlled vocabularies and thesauri in the humanities, to dealing with historically offensive language, and from defining accessibility in a humanities context to designing for it, our speakers will touch on many of the critical changes the digital humanities need.None of this is simple but, at the same time, if we work together to find solutions, it’s not impossible. By bringing together stakeholders from across our community — librarians, publishers, technology providers — this year’s Roundtable will kickstart a discussion on the practical requirements and implications of delivering a more diverse, a more accessible, a better information environment for the digital humanities community. 

The event will include small group breakout sessions to encourage attendees from a range of stakeholder communities to engage productively with one another and to collaborate in identifying next steps.

Confirmed speakers include, among others, Marti Heyman, Executive Director, Metadata Strategy and Operations, OCLC; Bethan Tovey-Walsh, PhD researcher, CorCenCC/Swansea University; Michelle Urberg, Affiliate Associate, Metadata Expert, Maverick Publishing Specialists; Dave Tell, Ph.D., Co-Director, Institute for Digital Research in the Humanities, University of Kansas; Mark Puente, Associate Dean/Associate Professor of Organizational Development, Inclusion, and Diversity, Purdue; Susan Doerr, Associate Director, University of Minnesota Press; Rebecca Blakiston, User Experience Strategist, University of Arizona and Ian Smith, Director, Accessibility Platforms and Solutions, codemantra US LLC.

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Event Sessions

11:00am - 11:15am Welcome


11:15am - 11:45am Building Digital Environments of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion


Mark A. Puente

Associate Dean/Associate Professor of Organizational Development, Inclusion, and Diversity
Purdue University Libraries and School of Information Studies

Puente will address the evolving vocabulary in diversity, equity and inclusion and make the case for developing a common framework for discussing these issues and their application to practice in the cultural heritage and information fields.  Puente will address the need for building greater capacity for equity and access in a digital environment, and making inroads to reducing colonial influences on inquiry, language, norms, and technology.

11:45am - 12:15pm The Complexities of Vocabularies


Marti Heyman

Executive Director, Metadata Strategy and Operations

This talk will provide a brief look at the opportunities and challenges associated with the development, management and use of knowledge organization systems (KOS) in support of content discovery and access. One of the greatest challenges is to minimize the introduction of bias in the structure and language of any KOS. Concrete examples will be taken from OCLC’s work to maintain the utility of the Dewey Decimal Classification Scheme.

12:15pm - 12:45pm Do's and Don'ts from the User Perspective


We design systems so that students and scholars can discover and access content, yet how do we know we are meeting their needs and expectations? How do we know if our language and taxonomies are enhancing or hindering discovery? In this presentation, you will learn techniques for putting yourself in the mind of your users. You’ll learn what we should do more and what we should do less to better optimize the user experience. 

12:45pm - 1:15pm Possible Next Steps (Single or multiple small group set-up)

Using Zoom break-out room functionality, attendees will be invited to engage with the speakers and with each other to consider viable approaches to the issues discussed. 

  • Discussion about possible next steps  - 20 minutes

  • Small Groups Report Back - 10 minutes


1:15pm - 1:45pm Lunch Break

1:45pm - 2:15pm ‘Disabled’ is a verb: reimagining the purposes of accessibility


We tend to think of ‘disabled’ as an adjective: an attribute of individuals. The disabled person has a body which is somehow limited in its capacity or functioning. Accessibility is therefore often conceptualized as a way of mitigating the inherent limitations of the disabled body.

However, for the past few decades, groups of disability theorist-activists have challenged us to think of disability as a product of the body in context, rather than as an inalienable attribute. In their understanding, individuals with impairments are disabled by interaction with situations or objects which fail to allow for their needs. This invites a re-imagination of accessibility as the provision of content that does not disable its users.

This talk will introduce examples of the treatment of specific impairments in law and in practice, to illustrate the usefulness of understanding ‘disabled’ as a verb. We will then consider how the process of disablement may be affected by intersecting characteristics (such as gender, wealth, age, and country of residence) and how these, too, must be factored into design for accessibility.

I hope to leave you with a richer understanding of what it means to produce accessible content, and why it matters that we do so.

2:15pm - 2:45pm - Solutions for Creating Accessible Content


Ian Smith

Director - Accessibility Platforms and Solutions
codemantra US LLC

The speaker is invited to provide the NISO audience with a case study

  • Problem Faced; Determining the Best Solution 

  • Challenges Faced and Overcome; Successes

  • Next Steps 

2:45 - 3:00 Discussion

Using Zoom break-out room functionality, attendees will be invited to engage with the speakers and with each other to consider viable approaches to the issues discussed. 

3:00 - 3:15   Comfort Break

3:15 - 3:45 Building New, Building Better (Three Speakers with 10 Minutes Each)


Michelle Urberg

Affiliate Associate, Metadata Expert
Maverick Publishing Specialists

Dave Tell

Professor of Communication Studies & Co-Director, Institute for Digital Research in the Humanities
University of Kansas

Susan Doerr

Associate Director
University of Minnesota Press

Three speakers actively working in the field will address the following: 

  • Are there metadata elements/fields unique to the humanities that should be identified and implemented for enhanced discoverability? 

  • What are the unique requirements of research in the digital humanities? 

  • Are there existing standards associated with information retrieval that might be adapted to better support the needs of those working in the digital humanities?

3:45pm - 4:15pm Moderated Roundtable Discussion

In this final segment of the program, participating speakers and attendees will discuss with moderator, Todd Carpenter, Executive Director of NISO, the possible, practical next steps that could be taken to address concerns uncovered throughout the course of the day.

Additional Information

  • Cancellations made by September 16, 2020 will receive a refund, less a $35 cancellation. After that date, there are no refunds.

  • Registrants will receive detailed instructions about accessing the virtual conference via e-mail the Friday prior to the event. (Anyone registering between Monday and the close of registration will receive the message shortly after the registration is received, within normal business hours.) Due to the widespread use of spam blockers, filters, out of office messages, etc., it is your responsibility to contact the NISO office if you do not receive login instructions before the start of the conference.

  • If you have not received your Login Instruction e-mail by 10 a.m. (ET) on the day before the virtual conference, please contact the NISO office at for immediate assistance.

  • Registration is per site (access for one computer) and includes access to the online recorded archive of the conference. You may have as many people as you like from the registrant's organization view the conference from that one connection. If you need additional connections, you will need to enter a separate registration for each connection needed.

  • If you are registering someone else from your organization, either use that person's e-mail address when registering or contact to provide alternate contact information.

  • Conference presentation slides and Q&A will be posted to this event webpage following the live broadcast.

  • Registrants will receive an e-mail message containing access information to the archived conference recording within 48 hours after the event. This recording access is only to be used by the registrant's organization.

For Online Events

  • You will need a computer for the presentation and Q&A.

  • Audio is available through the computer (broadcast) and by telephone. We recommend you have a set-up for telephone audio as back-up even if you plan to use the broadcast audio as the voice over Internet isn't always 100% reliable.

It is your responsibility to ensure that your system is properly set up before each virtual conference begins.