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.)

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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/).

The Society of Healthcare Professionals with Disabilities

Biomedical professionals with special needs should be considered when developing a strategy for an inclusive library. They are both patient and clinician. In addition to reference inquires that might arise when treating their patients, they may also have information and accessibility needs directly related to their own disabilities.

The Society of Healthcare Professionals with Disabilities (http://www.DisabilitySociety.org/) is an organization for health professionals with disabilities and associates. Providing professional resources and support, lifetime memberships are free. In addition to the global society, there are three subgroups:

  1. Physicians with Disabilities (www.PhysicianswithDisabilities.org)
  2. Pharmacists with Disabilities (http://www.PharmacistswithDisabilities.org)
  3. Nurses with Disabilities (http://NursingwithDisabilities.org)
The Society of Healthcare Professionals with Disabilities also maintains a blog that can be subscribed to via email or RSS.

Deaf Health Education Partnership: University of Pittsburgh HSLS & Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf

Seeking to improve the health information literacy, the Health Sciences Library System (HSLS) at the University of Pittsburgh partnered with the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf (WPSD) in project also supported in part by the National Library of Medicine. Reference Librarians from the University of Pittsburgh worked with WPSD health educators and the learning center director to create  health eduction curriculum for the students which covered Internet health searches, health website evaluation, and an introduction to MedlinePlus.

Communication barriers to health information in the Deaf community can arise not only due to the hearing disability proper, but also in translating English to ASL (American Sign Language) and explaining complicated medical terminology. The partnership created a valuable exchange for all involved. WPSD staff educated the University Reference Librarian in techniques to improve communication with the Deaf, while the librarian instructed both staff and students to conduct authoritative Internet searches for health information.


Gregg AL, Wozar JA, Wessel CB, Epstein BA. Designing a curriculum on Internet health resources for deaf high school students. J Med Libr Assoc 2002 Oct;90(4):431-436. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC128959/