The rapid refinement of adaptive technology over the last decade or so has probably generated more questions than it has provided answers vis a vis access to libraries and their collections and services. With this in mind, earlier in the year the editorial board of the quarterly electronic journal _Information Technology and Disabilities_ decided to devote an entire issue to library access; we're pleased to announce that this issue will also appear in print in the near future as a special issue of _Library Hi Tech_. Our initial call for articles, sent out electronically to most of the major discussion groups in the areas of education and rehabilitation as well as librarianship, generated a great deal of interest, and the articles which follow represent the best of those submitted. Not surprisingly, many of the articles submitted for inclusion in this special issue focus on information technology in general, and access to Internet-based resources in particular, and the arrangement of articles reflects this trend.
Volume II Number 4, December 1995
Enhancing Library Service for Patrons with Disabilities Through Staff Sensitivity Training and Specialized Bibliographic Instruction
The staff sensitivity training program began in the Fall of 1994 with the presentation of workshops for all full time staff of the Miller Nichols Library. UMKC's Counseling Center staff conducted the workshops. The two reference librarians directing the diversity grant had an initial meeting with the director and assistant director of the Counseling Center in July, 1994, and discussed three factors: (1) the goals they wished to accomplish through training; (2) the primary areas in the library where staff and patrons had personal contact; and (3) the number of sessions and the number of people who would take part in the training. Additional goals, besides increasing sensitivity and awareness among library personnel towards differences and similarities of people from a variety of cultures and with varying levels of ability, were to create an image that the library is a helpful place sensitive to these differences, and to provide full time staff with the skills which would enable them to impart what was learned during training to part time staff (including student assistants) not included in the training.
On the road to making libraries more accessible to people with disabilities, librarians often get stuck in technological mud. The choices are overwhelming, and many librarians feel they lack the technical expertise to select appropriate equipment. They have many questions about assistive technologies (AT): Should we buy a monochrome or colour CCTV (Close Circuit Television)? Which scanner works best? Can scanning software be used independently by someone who relies on synthesized speech output? How much RAM (Random Access Memory) and how large a hard drive are needed to run assistive technologies? What size monitor is optimal for for screen enlargement software? Is the screen enlargement program compatible with the voice output program? Do we need a Braille printer? a refreshable Braille display? a personal transmitter/receiver system? If yes, FM or infrared? And what about a voice recognition system?
One of the most important developments in information technology over the past ten years or so - quite apart from the massive improvements in hardware technology - has been the graphical user interface (GUI). For most people it has been a positive innovation, but for some - particularly those who are blind or visually impaired - it has been a rising threat as a barrier to the technology. Now that such interfaces have matured and become the norm, adaptations have been developed and perhaps that threat is not as bad as it was once feared to be. This paper describes the development of the GUI, why it is so significant and discusses whether it has been "tamed" with respect to use by people with visual disabilities
Universal Access and the ADA: A Disability Access Design Specification for the New UCLA Library On-line Information System
This article provides: (1) a brief discussion of the barriers traditionally faced by people with disabilities in accessing library collections, materials and services, (2) ADA compliance requirements for libraries, (3) an overview of the importance of adaptive computing technology in making library information accessible, and (4) a disability access design specification for the new UCLA library on-line information system, with the flexibility needed to adapt to a library's changing needs in providing universal information access. The specification includes extensive references for system design guidelines.
Access to Library Internet Services for Patrons with Disabilities: Pragmatic Consideration for Developers
When libraries offer patron access to the Internet and other on-line services, they must consider the needs of patrons with disabilities who will be using their Internet links either from the library or from remote sites. In planning and implementing technological improvements to optimize access for all patrons, librarians and information specialists must allow for both physical and intellectual access to electronic information. This paper addresses these issues from a pragmatic perspective, reviews available options and suggests strategies for improving access for people with various disabilities.
Leveling the Road Ahead: Guidelines for the Creation of WWW Pages Accessible to Blind and Visually Handicapped Users
Traditionally, it has been the role of the librarian to locate, select, organize, and disseminate information resources. With the advent of online services, this role is now being extended to include providing information about electronic resources in addition to those in print. For blind and visually handicapped computer users, the availability of electronic information has presented an even greater opportunity than it has for those who are able to read printed material. Prior to this, only a very limited amount of reading material had been available in an accessible format. In fact, texts, such as large reference works, have never been accessible to visually impaired users. For this reason, blind people are finding the burgeoning online services of numerous public and specialized libraries to be of great interest. Librarians should expect a growing number of people who have heretofore not been part of their library's patron population to avail themselves of the library's online offerings.
Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (formerly Recording for the Blind) has been providing audio recordings of educational texts since its founding in 1948. RFB&D's master tape library currently contains over 80,000 volumes, making it the largest resource of its kind in the world. Beginning in 1992, RFB&D initiated a project to develop an online public access catalog that would allow both institutional providers and individual borrowers to search its holdings and order recorded texts via the Internet. Also in 1993, a coordinated pilot project was begun to allow a limited test group of institutional sites and individuals the ability to use the catalog ordering mechanism in an effort to gather structured feedback on the usefulness of the system and suggestions for improvements. Although the project cannot be considered an overwhelming success, much insight has been gained as a result of our efforts and will be of considerable value in the development of a future improved version of RFB&D's online public access catalog.