ADA Special Edition of Medical Student JAMA (1998)

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

Bookshare Demonstration

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.

Disability – 2006 American Community Survey (ACS)

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:

  • sex
  • age
  • school enrollment
  • educational attainment
  • employment status
  • poverty status
  • median earnings

Disabilities are grouped into the following categories:

  • sensory
  • physical
  • mental
  • self-care
  • go-outside-home
  • employment

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+.

UpToDate Patient Information: ADD, ADHD, & Austism

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:

F2F Connection

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/

Dr. Ian Grant-Whyte, Dyslexia Doc

This is a very entertaining and informative personal narrative of Dr. Ian Grant-Whyte and his experiences as a physician with dyslexia. Dr. Grant-Whyte graduated from Cambridge Medical School unable to read, and finally learned to read at 41. He cites attending a speed reading course as the key, having been introduced to the concept of using his finger as a pacer. Born in South Africa, he ends the interview with a Zulu lullabye. More information about Dr. Ian Grant-Whyte and his memoir can be found on his website at: http://www.dyslexicdoc.com/.

(Disclaimer: there are two words bleeped at the beginning of the interview. Potentially NSFW or around children.)

NIH Senior Health and Web Accessibility

A 2009 study on the effects of education intervention on health information literacy in low socioeconomic senior citizens explored how information literacy training could improve their online searching skills. The study explained that physical, hearing, and visual impairments, which often increase with age, were some of the barriers to many senior citizens attempting online searches for health information. (1, p. 12)

The NIH SeniorHealth web site (http://nihseniorhealth.gov/) is a prime example of web accessibility. Though the website has colorful images, they are presented in a very uncluttered manner. Not only can the text be magnified, but contrast can also be set to create a black background with yellow writing. Speech can also be turned on to have all text read aloud within the browser. Information is arranged in an easy-to-navigate manner and all text is an easy-to-read level of comprehension.


(1) Chu A, Huber J, Mastel-Smith B, Cesario S. Partnering with Seniors for Better Health: computer use and Internet health information retrieval among older adults in a low socioeconomic community. J Med Libr Assoc 2009 Jan;97(1):12-20. doi: 10.3163/1536-5050.97.1.003

How to Make Your Own Adapted Switch Toys – Video

How to Make Your Own Adapted Switch Toys

For those that are comfortable with a needle, thread, and soldering iron, you can save a lot of money by converting your own toys for use with adaptive switches with this instructional video from Children’s Care Hospital and School in Sioux Falls. Arlen Klamm, Assistive Technology Coordinator, providers step-by-step instructions to adapt any electronic plush toy to work with a variety of adaptive switches.

For more information on Children’s Care, visit: http://www.cchs.org/.

Assistive Technologies in the Library

Book: Assistive Technologies in the Library“Assistive technology” can be an intimidating (and expensive) phrase. However, it includes a wide variety of resources. Touch screens, alternative keyboards and pointing instruments, voice synthesizers, audio input, and large switches can be helpful to those with a variety of impairments. Likewise audiobooks and large-print resources are not only imperative for those with vision problems, but also can be helpful to those with learning disabilities. Those with vision and hearing disabilities can have difficulty in accessing resources once at the library due to communication challenges. Libraries do not typically staff sign language interpreters, though this is the primary form of communication for many in the Deaf community. Nor do most libraries provide Braille materials in the stacks for blind patrons. Even directional signs, including call numbers, can be difficult for those with dyslexia or dyscalculia to find materials on the shelves.

If you are looking for one comprehensive resource to give a complete overview of assistive technologies, Assistive Technologies in the Library by Barbara T. Mates is highly recommended. For libraries looking to start incorporating assistive technology in their institutions, the checklist of “Ten Items a Library Should Put on the Front Burner” is a optimal place to start:

1. Support an accessible website, and purchase accessible electronic data.

2. Purchase screen-enlarging software.

3. Purchase screen-reading software and oversize monitors.

4. Enable the library’s operating systems’s built-in accessibility attributes to be activated.

5. Purchase a collection of low-cost alternative input devices, such as trackballs, joysticks, and touch screens.

6. Purchase portable high-end magnifying devices (e.g., CCTVs)

7. Purchase assistive-listening devices and acquire a video relay system.

8. Purchase task lighting for workstations and work to reduce glare.

9. Purchase an adjustable worktable that can be raised or lowered depending on need.

and most important

10. Invest in training for library’s staff. (p. 165)

Published in 2011, this book is extremely up-to-date and covers a wide spectrum of disabilities, technologies, and resources. Available from the American Library Association ($55).


Mates BT, Reed WR. Assistive technologies in the library. Chicago: American Library Association; 2011.

Understanding Assistive Technology – Video

Understanding Assistive Technology – PACER Simon Technology Center

The Simon Technology Center (STC) at Minnesota’s PACER Center (Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights) presents a simple, illustrative definition of assistive technology. The STC provides assistive technology consultations and training in addition to a lending library. Their video presents a welcome reminder that assistive technology is not necessarily cost-prohibitive. The first example of assistive technology given is a simple foam grip that allows a child to hold a crayon. Eye glasses and corrective lenses are perhaps the most common form of assistive technology, and a reminder that many library patrons have special needs even if they are not considered to have a disability.

To find local resources in your state, the PACER Center recommends: The Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs (http://www.ataporg.org/).