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WiderNet Project Announces Launch of Global Disability Rights Library

(left to right) Dr. Liliana Mayo, Founder & General Director of Centro Ann Sullivan del Perú; Dr. Thomas Cook, University of Iowa; Andrew Herscowitz, Deputy Director of USAID/Peru & Cara Thanassi, Deputy Chief of the Office of Democratic Initiatives USAID/Peru.


Advocates for the rights of people with disabilities around the globe now have a new way to find the knowledge and information resources they need: the Global Disability Rights Library (GDRL), an innovative technology that delivers digital information anywhere in the world, even to places the Internet does not reach.

The WiderNet Project, a service program in the School of Library and Information Science at the University of Iowa, just released the first prototype version of this library, containing over 500,000 resources on disability rights. It is available in both an on-line and off-line version.

Internet users can browse the library, locate resources, and share their feedback with the GDRL team to improve the library. The on-line version can be found at

“Few people in the developing world have the Internet,” said WiderNet’s Tomeka Petersen. “And even fewer people with disabilities can access information they need to improve their lives. Our librarians and volunteers have spent thousands of hours collecting the best materials from over 100 organizations in the U.S. and abroad.”

The off-line version of the Global Disability Rights Library is delivered on a computer hard drive with an interface that emulates the appearance and function of the World Wide Web without requiring actual Internet access. So far, a total of 27 off-line deployment sites have been selected, including four test locations in Ethiopia, Nigeria, Peru and Zambia that have just received prototype units for review. 

The GDRL team will use feedback from the first four deployment sites, along with comments from on-line users, to improve the library before disseminating it to the other deployment sites. 

Another 33 off-line deployment sites will be selected in September. An on-line application form is at

The GDRL is a partnership between the UI WiderNet Project, the U.S. International Council on Disabilities (USICD), and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Its goal is to deliver the best materials on disability rights and the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to developing countries, particularly to locations with limited internet access.

“We are excited to share the prototype version of the Global Disability Rights Library with the public because we need everyone’s help in making it an outstanding resource,” said Andrea Shettle, GDRL program manager at USICD. “Disability rights advocates, policy makers, and other stakeholders in developing countries need access to a rich body of digital knowledge. The websites, videos, and electronic publications contained in the library will support their work in improving the lives of people with disabilities.”

The GDRL is still very much a work in progress, Shettle stressed. To improve the library, project organizers are requesting input from people with disabilities around the world, and from the organizations that support them. Feedback and suggestions for additional digital resources can be e-mailed to

To learn more about the project, visit and

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Tomeka Petersen, GDRL Field Coordinator, WiderNet Project, University of Iowa, 319-335-2200,; Andrea Shettle, Program Manager, U.S. International Council on Disabilities, 877-535-0506,; Nicole Riehl, University News Services, 319-384-0070,


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