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.
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 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.
You can download a PDF of the report at: U.S. GAO – Older Workers: Demographic Trends Pose Challenges for Employers and Workers.