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:
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+.
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
In the past three decades there have been numerous laws and regulations passed to both prevent discrimination based upon disability and also support such individuals with special needs. Here are three key acts to introduce you to the topic:
Rehabilitation Act of 1973: Section 504 protects against discrimination based upon mental or physical disability from organization that receive federal funding. Section 508 additionally requires accessible information technology. (1)
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990: prohibits discriminate solely on the basis of disability in employment, public services, and accommodations. (2)
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): embraces children with special needs in education. Children and youth (ages 3-21) receive special education and related services under IDEA Part B. Infants and toddlers with disabilities (birth – 2) and their families receive early intervention services under IDEA Part C. (3)
Please see “A Guide to Disability Rights Laws” (September 2005) at Disability.gov for more information about these and other disability laws.
The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (- 42 U.S.C. § 12102) defines disabilities in three parts:
•(A) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual;
•(B) a record of such an impairment; or
•(C) being regarded as having such an impairment. (1)
The Office on Disability (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) compliments the legislative definition of disabilities as “characteristics of the body, mind, or senses that, to a greater or lesser extent, affect a person’s ability to engage independently in some or all aspects of day-to-day life.” (2) Simply put, those with disabilities have special needs, whether physically, mentally, or intellectually. These needs may be visible, invisible, and/or temporary. Biomedical librarians can assist with these needs by not only ensuring access within the library environment to all clientele, but also through assisting doctors, nurses, and other clinicians in staying up-to-date on disability topics.
AbleData also provides lists of regional, national, and international resources and conferences. A searchable assistive technology literature library includes links to thousands of publications on 45 different topics, along with downloadable fact sheets on each major category of assistive technology. One of the more interesting documents on the site is their Guide to Indexing Terms, which is helpful in researching information both on the AbleData site and other databases.
AbleData is an excellent resource for biomedical librarians not when considering assistive technology purchases, but also as an informative resource referral for clinicians and patients alike.
Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 presented regulations to ensure accessibility to buildings and facilities for people with disabilities. Section 8 of the ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities from the United States Access Board provides specific guidelines for libraries. In addition to the standard building guidelines, these additional regulations increase physical accessibility to study and reading areas, checkout, card catalogs, magazine racks, and stacks. However, following the regulations of the ADA should just be a start. To be a truly inclusive environment, libraries must reach beyond simply providing the traditional accommodations for ambulatory impairments. Those with special needs require not only access to the physical building and materials, but also access to the information within.
Though this report is now ten years old, it is interesting to revisit as this year marks the first that the Baby Boomer generation turned 65. It was estimated that by 2015, 19.6% of the labor force will be over the age of 55 (Figure 1). These numbers are comparable to job statistics in the health sciences, 19.3 % of doctors and 12% of nurses were over the age of 55 in 2,000 (Table 8). These figures are important when considering the clientele of the biomedical library and the special needs that might arise with regards to potential vision, hearing, and mobility impairments as workers retire at a later age.