Assistive Technology for PatronsWho Are Blind or Have Other Disabilities

Assistive technology (AT) devices can enable people with disabilities to take advantage of traditional library resources and services; they may be low-tech devices, such as magnifiers, or high tech devices, such as computer software with large print or voice output. The DRM WebWatcher has an extensive section on assistive technology. Check it for general AT web sites, sites which will help you find specific kinds of AT devices, information about funding AT products, shareware, demos and other software which you can download, information about acquiring used AT equipment and computers, and vendor links. The following links deal specifically with assistive technology in libraries.


Adaptive Technology for the Internet: Making Electronic Resources Accessible to All by Barbara T. Mates, an excellent guide for libraries, is now available online from ALA Editions. The print version of this book was reviewed in the May 2000 issue of Disability Resources Monthly. [added 9/1/00]

Assistive Technology in Libraries, a handy resource for librarians, was created as a project for the Master’s of Library Science degree at Texas Woman’s University by Johnnie Rhodes. Separate sections on visual impairments, mobility impairments, and learning disabilities provide information and links relating to causes, assistive technologies, vendors, and organizations. There is also a small list of disability, assistive technology, and legal/policy web sites.


UNIVERSAL ACCESS: Electronic Resources in Libraries is a training kit produced by Project Do-It to help library staff and volunteers become more aware of the issues, needs and concerns of people with disabilities in accessing electronic resources. This site includes text and Adobe Acrobat versions of the presentation materials and a web demonstration that can used to illustrate accessible Web design guidelines.


The EASI (Equal Access to Software and Information) Library Without Walls is a fabulous collection of resources about such diverse topics as building an accessible CD-ROM reference station, developing an online public access catalog, finding adaptive equipment for your library, providing bibliographic instruction to students who are deaf, and lots more.


TESTLAB (“Testing Systems Using Telematics for Library Access for Blind and Visually handicapped readers”) is establishing a series of practical trials in public and academic libraries whereby people who are blind and visually impaired can gain access to catalogues and digital documents in forms which they can read.


Courtney Deines-Jones’ Opening New Worlds of Information: Library Technology and Internet Access for Patrons with Disabilities, a paper presented at the Annual Conference of the Canadian Association for Information Science (1995), offers a wealth of practical options and strategies for libraries that provide access to the Internet and other on-line services.


Check The Public-Access Computer System Review, a searchable on line journal, for articles such as Norman Coombs’ Electronic Access to Library Systems for Users with Physical Disabilities.


Creating a home page for your library? Many home pages are extremely difficult for people who use assistive technology (such as voice synthesizers) to read. Find out how to design accessible World Wide Web pages in The DRM WebWatcher.


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