According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project report on digital difference:
“The 27% of adults living with disability in the U.S. today are significantly less likely than adults without a disability to go online (54% vs. 81%). Furthermore, 2% of adults have a disability or illness that makes it more difficult or impossible for them to use the internet at all.”
Libraries can play a vital role in providing both information and computer literacy training to the special needs population. It is vital that librarians are up-to-date on resources that are pertinent to their needs in order to help them view the Internet as a relevant resource. Additionally, rather than keeping special keyboards and pointing devices behind the desk, creating an assistive technology workstation ensures that the library’s technology offerings are always inviting and accessible to those living with a disability.
In this video currently making its rounds on the Internet, the Wimpy burger chain announced their new Braille menu with hand-crafted sesame seed Braille hamburger buns. While the step to create an inclusive restaurant experience is commendable, the burger chain is missing the point in this promotional campaign. By creating a video without audio narration, they have posted something that is completely inaccessible to the target audience.
This can be a lesson to any library introducing new services to the special needs community: deliver your large-scale informational campaign in a manner that can actually be received by the population proper.
The January 7, 1998 edition of PULSE, The Medical Student Section of JAMA was dedicated to a series of articles on “The Americans with Disabilities Act and Afterwards: Disabilities in Medical Education and Practice”. One of the most interesting items in the entire section was the statistic that 8.8% of all college freshman report having a disability compared to only 0.2% of medical school graduates (1, p. 79). Covering topics from mental health to deafness, many of the articles are written from the first-person point of view of the disabled medical student, and while over ten years old is still an important read for any academic health sciences librarian.
(1) Reichgott MJ. The disabled student as undifferentiated graduate: a medical school challenge. JAMA 1998 Jan 7;279(1):79. doi:10.1001/jama.279.1.79
Teacher Jill Dunaway Demonstrates The Bookshare Library
Bookshare is an online catalog of digital books for people with visual disabilities, and is free to any student in the United States with a qualifying disability. Additional information on who can qualify for membership and proof of disability requirements can be found at Bookshare’s website at: http://www.bookshare.org/_/membership/qualifications.
National and regional statistics for your coverage area are imperative when developing an inclusive service plan for those with special needs in your library. Disability statistics from the 2006 American Community Survey are available online from the U.S. Census Bureau at http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/disability/2006acs.html. Customizable tables can be created from the data with regards to:
- school enrollment
- educational attainment
- employment status
- poverty status
- median earnings
Disabilities are grouped into the following categories:
Additional disability data includes: disability subject table, select economic characteristics for the civilian noninstitutionalized population by disability status, and ranking tables by age group: 5-20 years, 21-64, and 65+.
Though the majority of articles on disabilities featured in UpToDate require paid subscription access, there are three that fall within the free patient information division and would be ideal information prescriptions for non-biomedical staff:
A needs assessment survey published in 2005 details the first phase in a partnership with the School of Library and Information Studies at Texas Woman’s University, Houston Academy of Medicine-Texas Medical Center (HAM-TMC) Library, and Family to Family Network (F2FN). F2F provides services and support to families with special needs children in the Houston area. The needs assessment survey was the first phase of a joint effort to increase health information access to Texas families of special needs children. Both the survey methods and questions are detailed in the article, and would be an excellent template for any biomedical library interested in partnering with local resources to increase outreach and education to any special needs population.
Huber JT, Dietrich JD, Cugini E, Burke S. F2F connection: a community health information needs assessment of Texas families who have children with chronic illnesses and/or disabilities and their care providers. J Med Libr Assoc 2005 Apr;93(2):278-281. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1082946/