New Survey: Only 54% of Adults w/ Disabilities are Online

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.”

Link: http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2012/Digital-differences/Overview/Digital-differences.aspx

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.

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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

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.

MLA Guide to Health Literacy

MLA Guide to Health Literacy
The Medical Library Association Guide to Health Literacy is a comprehensive introduction to the topic of health literacy in both the public and hospital library, including service to special populations. Included in the discussion of special populations is “Health Literacy for People with Disabilities” by Shelley Hourston.

Hourston discusses the barriers to health literacy facing the special needs population along with a brief overview of various disabilities: physical disabilities, developmental disabilities, brain injury, low vision or blindness, low hearing or deafness, mental health disabilities, and learning disabilities. Hourston notes that health literacy can be especially important for those with disabilities as they also tend to have an increased use of medication (p. 119).


Kars M, Baker L, Wilson FL,. The Medical Library Association guide to health literacy. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers; 2008.

AbleData

AbleData is a review website for assistive technology maintained by the The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) that aims for objectivity, and does not sell any products.    The assistive technology product database includes the following categories:

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.


AbleData: http://www.abledata.com

The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR): http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osers/nidrr/index.html

IFLA: Library Services to People with Special Needs Section

IFLA LogoThe International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions’ LSN was originally created as part of Subcommittee on Hospital Libraries in 1931 as a means to promote library services (including bibliotherapy) to those that were hospitalized and homebound. Renamed for the 6th time in 2008, the Library Service to Special Needs Section of the IFLA is a forum for library and professionals across the globe to discuss improving services to those not only in healthcare facilities, but also all library patrons with disabilities. As this section covers services to all who cannot access traditional library services, prison library issues are also covered. The LSN digital newsletter and publication archive is available on the IFLA website.