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.
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 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 – 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/).
The Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) leads the Universal Design for Learning movement based upon their research to improve instruction to children with special needs. UDL takes into account various learning styles of individuals in education and instruction. Universal Design for Learning considers neurological differences in the recognition, strategic, and affective networks in the brain, providing multiple means of representation (recognition network), action and expression (strategic network), and engagement (expression network) in instructional strategies. The concepts of UDL can be applied to both health and information literacy in any biomedical library, and could be especially useful for those in academic health sciences libraries.
Center for Applied Special Technology. About UDL. [cited 2011 December 8]. Available at: http://www.cast.org/udl/index.html.
The NoHands Mouse is a hands-free mouse that utilizes foot pedals, ideal for those with no or limited hand movement. Compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux systems, one pedal controls movement of the cursor, while the other is used for clicking. Right and left click functions are accessed by a heel movement (right mouse button) and toe click (left mouse button). Interestingly, the commercial on the company’s website does not address disabilities per se, but is targeted at those looking to avoid carpel tunnel syndrome. Available for purchase directly from Hunter Digital, this alternative cursor device costs $359.99.
In 1993 Patricia P. Nelson, M.L.S., M.A., AssistantDirector of the Denison Memorial Library, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center oversaw the creating a low-vision workstation for online catalog access. As the UCHSC is in a separate location from the rest of the campus, and other libraries, they saw a need to introduce special needs services locally within their institution.
The project was funded by a $12,000 grant from the Library Services and Construction Act (LSCA) of the Colorado State Library. The grant itself was an interesting partnership as this fund allocates monies to public libraries, and the UCHSC Library successfully pleaded their case as a public health information provider. Likewise, the Denison Memorial Library’s use of CARL OPAC software presented the opportunity to create a workstation that could be a blueprint for other Colorado Alliance Research Libraries. (p. 1)
Though both this article and workstation are now nearly twenty years old, and assistive technology has improved significantly, the process in securing funds, researching technology, and incorporating the workstation into their existing OPAC software is valuable to any biomedical library interested in expanding their services to those with low vision.
Nelson PP. A low-vision workstation for online catalog access: empowering persons with visual disabilities. Bull Med Libr Assoc 1995 Apr;83(2):247-248. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC226038/