Tips for Assistive Technology from Knowledgeable Librarians

Advice on Assistive Technology from Proven Librarians

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As public libraries work to become more welcoming places for all community members, assistive technology remains a crucial subject. The American Library Association’s guidelines on accessibility are rather specific:

“By enabling persons with disabilities to fully participate in society, libraries play a catalytic role in their lives. To make sure that library policy, resources, and services cater to the needs of everyone, libraries should employ solutions based on the universal design principles.

Learn About the Different Types of Assistive Technology

The coordinator for disability information and referrals at the Texas Talking Book Program and Texas State Library, Dina Abramson, categorizes the term “assistive” since it may relate to a wide range of technologies:

1. blindness or poor eyesight

2. hearing-impaired or deaf

3. limited mobility

For people with impaired eyesight, Dina recommends certain low-cost and free accessibility apps like NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access). It is a free screen reader that enables persons with visual impairment to use Windows PCs on their own.

Study Disability Etiquette

Additionally, Dina Abramson gives a succinct explanation of the fundamental manners for dealing with customers who are disabled.

Never touch a person’s wheelchair, cane, or other assistance equipment without their consent when working with people who have mobility issues. First offer help, but keep in mind that some persons who need wheelchairs or scooters may be able to walk.

Finally, you should always refer to the individual with the handicap first and then the disability. Consider using “a person who uses a wheelchair” rather than “wheelchair bound.”

Join Forces with a Local Helping Organization

With assistance from the East Texas Lighthouse for the Blind, Nancy Murillo of the Pittsburg-Camp County Library in Texas located 38 visually impaired persons in Camp County and around 100 in the neighboring areas. The objective was to provide these community members access to contemporary assistive technologies.

Nancy determined the precise technologies the library required. They received a touch-enabled Windows all-in-one computer with a crystal-clear screen. The PCs are equipped with JAWS technology, a robust screen-reading tool that facilitates work completion for those with limited vision or blindness. The all-in-one PCs receive remote IT assistance from the Lighthouse personnel.

Additionally, the Pittsburg-Camp County Library includes high-definition CCTV screens that let patrons expand printed items’ text and illustrations. CCTV displays may magnify text up to one letter at a time, reverse colors, and give extra colors.

The library’s personnel received technological training from the Lighthouse crew. Additionally, they recruited a low vision community volunteer to help customers and staff with the assistive technology.

In order to share best practices and tech advice, Clay Ragan, the director of the Computer Training Bridge at the Winston-Salem Industry for the Blind in North Carolina, also collaborates with regional agencies and groups.

These organizations have aided us in staying current with assistive technology advancements, according to Clay.

He adds that if the library is unable to satisfy a patron’s needs, local partners act as an extra resource. The staff can refer a patron to an assistive technology company, for instance, if the patron inquires about a technology that the library does not offer.

Increase Awareness of Your Assistive Technology

Nancy Murillo from the Pittsburg-Camp County Library advises, “Publicize, publicize, publicize!” “You must inform your community about your assistive technology if you want people to be aware of it. The Pittsburg Library was fortunate to have some marketing materials from the Lighthouse group. Make sure the organization you’re collaborating with shares your excellent work with their network if you’re working with them to improve your accessible technologies.

Partnering with other organizations is a fantastic approach to advertise your assistive technology, argues Clay Ragan of the Forsyth County Library. If a partner organization experiences an increase in the number of consumers who require tech access or training, it will direct those customers to the library.

It’s acceptable to lack expertise and to be adaptable!

According to Clay Ragan, a customer frequently has better knowledge of assistive technology than the employees. They only want access to it since they have been utilizing it their entire lives. Additionally, it’s advantageous for customers to know more since they frequently keep up with advancements in assistive technology and can offer suggestions for the library.

Consider AT [assistive technology] as a case-by-case basis, said Clay. It’s possible that what works for one client won’t work for another.

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