After an absence of several volumes, the ITD "Departments" are back. I'm pleased to be assuming the role of editor for the Libraries section, which was originally held by Ann Neville, recently retired from her position at the University of Texas. In this and future issues, I hope to include news of interest to librarians and other professionals in disability-related fields. For this issue, I'm including just a few notes and reviews of products, publications, and conference proceedings.
If you would like to suggest items for inclusion to this or any other section of ITD, please do not hesitate to contact me, preferably via e-mail.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS LAUNCHES "WEB-BRAILLE" ON THE INTERNET
Ask any avid braille reader if they'd like to add a few thousand titles to their collection, and most would undoubtedly say yes, but would be quick to follow that with "and how about the extra rooms to store them in?!" One of the unfortunate drawbacks to traditional hard copy, or "embossed" braille reading matter has always been its bulkiness, with the average braille novel taking up several times the shelf space of its traditional print counterpart.
With the advent of computerized text, all of that changed. Braille readers can access the contents of a computer screen with a refreshable braille device, a strip with a series of braille cells that change to represent, line-by-line, the contents of the computer's monitor. The National Library Service of the Library of Congress has recently instituted a program that takes advantage of this cutting edge technology to make its braille offerings available over the Internet, in electronic format, for registered, braille proficient readers.
As this issue of ITD goes to press, NLS provides access to more than 2,700 electronic braille books on the Internet, with plans to increase that number by many hundreds of new titles in the future. NLS produces about 40 new title per month, all of which are immediately available to registered users.
According to Dr. Judith Dixon, consumer relations officer at the Library of Congress, "It occurred to us several years ago that the computer files used to emboss braille books on paper might be able to be placed online for Internet access." The system works, adds Dixon, because "Grade 2 braille utilizes the traditional ASCII character set."
For further information on Web-Braille, contact:
Robert E. Fistick
Head, Publication and Media Section
National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
The Library of Congress
1291 Taylor Street, NW
Washington, DC 20542
ARL PUBLISHES TRANSFORMING LIBRARIES: ISSUES AND INNOVATIONS IN SERVICE TO USERS WITH DISABILITIES
by GraceAnne DeCandido
Washington: Association of Research Libraries
$28 plus shipping and handling
April, 1999. 29 p.
SPEC Kit 243
Librarians charged with making their institutions accessible to users with disabilities have no shortage of literature at their disposal. Indeed, in recent years a great many books and articles on various aspects of disability have appeared on a fairly regular basis. One of the latest additions to the literature on library accessibility, a short but very content-rich ARL SPEC kit, summarizes issues facing larger research libraries today, and offers numerous case studies of various institutions' disability programs and services.
Through a series of thirteen interviews and numerous on-site visits, author GraceAnne DeCandido creates a snapshot of the current state of disabled readers' services in large research libraries around the country. As one who has worked in the field for close to 15 years now, I found it interesting to note that our programs have evolved somewhat similarly, and that there does seems to be some consistency among larger institutions' offerings, both in services as well as technologies.
For example, the role of the academic library liaison has evolved over the years, but still appears to be a portion of the liaison's overall responsibility to the library. DeCandido notes that "all liaisons had other responsibilities ó from collection development to reference to cataloguer to fine arts librarian ó and estimated that their work with users with disabilities took on average from one-fourth to one-third of their time, though all said it could take more." (p.6).
The summaries and program profiles included in this, the eighth issue in the Transforming Libraries series, provide administrators and others the kind of comparative data needed to ensure that programs and facilities are up-to-speed, and represents a welcome addition to ARL's very rich print and web-publication offerings. While it lacks the detailed introductory text and case studies, the web version, available free-of-charge, includes handy links to vendors, case study libraries' disability services pages, etc.
KEEPING UP WITH THE WEB: A LOSING BATTLE? ENLIST THE INFORMANT FOR HELP!
Like most professionals, students and other net-surfers, you probably research some of the same topics again and again. With the number of new web pages increasing at break-neck speed, keeping on top of the electronic literature in your field can be an overwhelming task!
But, there is electronic help out there. One unique service, The Informant, uses robots to periodically perform some of your searches -- using your favorite search engines and web-sites. The Informant will keep you "au courant" via e-mail when new or updated pages appear.
The Informant notification systems works in two ways. At a periodic interval of 3, 7, 14, 30 or 60 days (you specify), the Informant uses the Altavista, Lycos, Excite, and Infoseek search engines to find the ten Web pages that most closely match your pre-set list of keywords. When a new page appears in the top ten, or if one of the pages from your previous top ten list has been updated, the Informant sends you an e-mail message. Or, if you have some favorite sites you'd like to monitor, the Informant will check them for you ó again, at period intervals of 3, 7, 14, 30 or 60 days. If and when they are modified or updated, you will receive an e-mail notification.
This reviewer has been notified by The Informant of some new, extremely valuable sites (along with a much larger amount of world wide dreck, no fault of The Informant!). Overall, my Informant account has brought enough important material to my attention to merit the highest recommendation to others. And, of course, you can't beat the price ó The Informant is free-of-charge!
FREE VIDEO FROM MICROSOFT - ENABLE: PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES AND COMPUTERS
Reviewed by: Rebecca Cory
Gustavus Adolphus College
copyright 1999, Microsoft Corporation
Order online: http://www.microsoft.com/enable/productions/order.htm
Or, if your browser does not support forms, or if you do not have access to the web, call toll free to order Enable:
Enable includes, on a single videotape, both closed-captioning and descriptive narration.
Enable: People with Disabilities and Computers is a free video, available from the Microsoft Corporation, that facilitates understanding of how technology can be used to accommodate people with disabilities. Through an informal lunchtime discussion, profiles of individuals with disabilities, and comedic demonstrations by the Flying Karamozov Brothers, Enable entertains as it informs.
The video opens with Greg Smith, host of "On the Roll" radio, Terrylene, an actress, and Alex Valdez, a comedian, meeting for lunch with the Flying Karamozov Brothers. They discuss the diversity of individuals with disabilities and note how people are sometimes uncomfortable when they meet someone with a disability. Members of the group recount some of the frustrations along with some of the funnier experiences they've had as a result of their disabilities. In sign language made audible to the hearing audience by an intepreter, Terrylene says that she has a hard time when she meets someone who is blind. Because her means of communication is visual, and theirs auditory, she must struggle to make a connection. On the other hand, she jokes, she never knows when she is being whistled at by men, and so is spared that form of harassment. As a blind person, Alex Valdez' greatest frustration is not being able to drive a car. Smith mentions how he joined the marching band in high school, the first wheelchair user to do so, as far as he knows. Valdez, a corporate trainer, works to improve the comfort level of employees who work with people with disabilities. He advised everyone to "never assume, always ask" if they have questions about an individual with a disability.
Enable offers numerous profiles of individuals with disabilities who have experienced how technology can enhance their life. The profiles cover a range of disabilities, including blindness, hearing and mobility impairments of various kinds, stroke, and cerebral palsy. Each of the individuals profiled describes her or his disability in a personal, unique way, often emphasizing the liberating impact of technology in all aspects of their lives, at work, at school and at home. This video, although produced by Microsoft, includes all kinds of adaptive technology (both hardware and software), not just Microsoft products.
Interspersed between the lunchtime discussion and the individual profiles, the Flying Karamozov Brothers demonstrate the basics of computer technology with humorous juggling routines. In one of these demonstrations, Dimitri and Ivan juggle mallets against a xylophone to play music. When Ivan covers Dimitri's ears with headphones, so he can't hear his partner's playing, he is not able to keep up with the music. However, Ivan then turns to play with Dimitri, substituting visual clues for the auditory ones that he is missing, and Dimitri is able to juggle and play beautifully. The overall message of Enable is that, with the help of adaptive technology, individuals with disabilities can function in a competitive work or academic environment. The video uses humor to keep it interesting, and never portrays the individual's accomplishments as being anything other than "normal."
Educators, human resources trainers and managers, disability professionals and others will be able to employ this video in a variety of settings, from training faculty and work site supervisors, to helping individuals with disabilities understand how technology can assist them. Each of the profiles and juggling segments stands alone and can be used independently, and with a length of 45 minutes, the entire video can be viewed at a lunch hour, or during a longer session, allowing time for discussion.
IFLA PRE-CONFERENCE PAPERS AVAILABLE ON THE WEB:
Bridging the Gap in the Provision of Library Services and Literacy:
Support for the Blind in Realizing the Information Age
Penang, Malaysia, 18-20 August 1999
The International Federal of Library Associations (IFLA) has a long tradition of international collaboration in the field of library service for persons with disabilities. That tradition continued this summer, with the Association's pre-conference on services and technologies for blind and visually impaired users. Section Chair Beatrice Christensen Sköld's report, "Section Activities and Developments in the Area of Libraries for the Blind," outlines the Section's progress and program of work for the 1998-2001 period. Speakers from around the globe presented papers and case studies on topics of interest to librarians in public, academic and school libraries. In addition to a number of country-specific and regional overviews of services and technologies, papers included such specialized topics as tactile graphics, digital audio books and computerized braille production.
The complete text of approximately three-quarters of the pre-conference papers can be found at: http://www.ifla.org/IV/ifla65/65sate.htm#4