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

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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/

Universal Design for Learning

Introduction to UDL (Center for Applied Special Technology)

The Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) leads the Universal Design for Learning movement based upon their research to improve instruction to children with special needs. UDL takes into account various learning styles of individuals in education and instruction. Universal Design for Learning considers neurological differences in the recognition, strategic, and affective networks in the brain, providing multiple means of representation (recognition network), action and expression (strategic network), and  engagement (expression network) in instructional strategies. The concepts of UDL can be applied to both health and information literacy in any biomedical library, and could be especially useful for those in academic health sciences libraries.


Center for Applied Special Technology. About UDL. [cited 2011 December 8]. Available at: http://www.cast.org/udl/index.html.