Announcing your inclusive practices in an inclusive manner

In this video currently making its rounds on the Internet, the Wimpy burger chain announced their new Braille menu with hand-crafted sesame seed Braille hamburger buns. While the step to create an inclusive restaurant experience is commendable, the burger chain is missing the point in this promotional campaign. By creating a video without audio narration, they have posted something that is completely inaccessible to the target audience.

This can be a lesson to any library introducing new services to the special needs community: deliver your large-scale informational campaign in a manner that can actually be received by the population proper.

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Bookshare Demonstration

Teacher Jill Dunaway Demonstrates The Bookshare Library

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.

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.

The Universal Design Movement

Initially, the term “Universal Design” was coined by architect, Ronald L. Mace, a graduate and affiliate of North Carolina State University. Universal Design (UD) is “the idea that all new environments and products to the greatest extent possible should be usable by everyone regardless of age, ability, or circumstance.” (1) His work eventually led to founding the Center for Universal Design based at NCSU.

The seven principles for Universal Design are:

  1. Equitable Use
  2. Flexibility in Use
  3. Simple and Intuitive Use
  4. Perceptible Information
  5. Tolerance for Error
  6. Low Physical Effort
  7. Size and Space for Approach and Use (1)
A 2009 article by  Ann S. Williams, PhD, RN, CDE  in Diabetes Education, encourages the adoption of UD principles not only in medical devices used to monitor diabetes, but also in Diabetes Self-Management Education (DSME), emphasizing a strategy to accommodate not just the 90% of average users, but as close to 100% as possible (2, p. 2)

As an illustration, consider a DSME class that contains persons with hearing loss, visual impairment, and ADD, as well as those without current disability. If essential material is simultaneously presented in both audible and visual formats – for example, using colorful illustrations in a slide presentation with detailed verbal description from the instructor – persons with hearing loss, visual impairments, and ADD will be better able to perceive, attend, and understand it. Adding a lively participatory game will enhance the attention of the person with ADD. Making all classroom materials available in printed handouts, and also in audio-recordings or digital format ensures that persons with visual impairment or ADD can review the information at their own pace and in their own way. (2, p. 5-6)

UD presents principles that are applicable to the biomedical field as a whole, and can be integral in overall health literacy and efforts in all biomedical libraries. As William proposes, if we begin new strategies with Universal Design principles in mind, we can potentially eliminate the need to add “adaptations or special design” at a later date. (2, p. 7)

(1) North Carolina State University, Center for Universal Design. 
The Principles of Universal Design. 2011; [cited 2011 December 7] Available at: http://www.ncsu.edu/project/design-projects/udi/center-for-universal-design/.

(2) Williams AS. Universal design in diabetes care: an idea whose time has come. Diabetes Educ 2009 Jan-Feb;35(1):45-57. doi:10.1177/0145721708329700

Creating an OPAC Low-Vision Workstation

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/

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.

As seen at CLA: Optelec ClearReader+ Advanced

Netherlands-based company, Optelec showcased some of their latest assistive technology for the visually impaired and dyslexic at the California Library Association Conference last month. One of the most impressive items was the ClearReader+ Advanced, a nearly instant text-to-speech scanner. Compact in size and easily portable with a battery and built-in handle, it is a fraction of the cost and size of previous machines. Users can also scan to a monitor to magnify text and images, and save documents with a voice label.