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Assistive Technologies: Equity And Inclusion For All

Assistive Technologies: Equity And Inclusion For All

“There are different types of disabilities that may be encountered every day in your library.  The most common disabilities fall under these categories:

  • Physical
  • Sensory – Visual impairment or blindness, deafness or hard of hearing
  • Cognitive – Various levels of intelligence, memory, self-expression, mental processing
  • Psychiatric- Disabilities that include a broad range of challenges from social phobias to bipolar to personality disorders
  • Health Related – Chronic conditions

Some of the ways these barriers can be addressed is to identify the challenges that technology can address. For example, if a child is having difficulty visually processing the text of a sentence or paragraph, you can examine ways of using technology to change the text or change the color contrast between the text and the page to help them distinguish individual words form sentences.

Not sure what types of assistive technologies can improve access for your library users? Read on! Listed below are some of the many technologies that can aid those with disabilities:

  • Speech-Recognition software: Children and youth dealing with blindness/visual impairment, or with physical limitations that prevent them from typing on a keyboard, can use text-to-speech devices (mobile and otherwise) to compose their assignments. When using these programs, children speak into a microphone, which then translates their words into typed documents. The most well-known of the software programs that perform this task is Dragon Naturally Speaking, which also recognizes voice commands such as “insert exclamation point.”
  • Text-to-Speech software: This kind of assistive technology helps children and youth with visual impairments by allowing them to listen to the text that appears on a computer screen. This is a huge improvement over Braille because once the program is installed on the computer, it can read anything on the screen, no matter what format it is in (for example, pdf or website) with no waiting for a Braille translation. This enables students to participate in online activities, use email and text, and have immediate access to course materials. There are many free versions of this software available online, such as Natural Readers.
  • Visual Aids: This broad category of assistive technology includes screen magnification software that enlarges portions of the screen where the reader directs the mouse; screen reader software that translates screen text to Braille, text-to-speech programs; audio texts. All of these can be used by children with many kinds of visual disabilities.
  • Audio Aids: Another broad category of assistive technology aids include sound amplification tools; alerting devices that use flashing lights or icons on the computer screen rather than sounds to signal users; close-captioning for videos; TTY (TDD) also known as Telecommunication for the Deaf; phones enabled with Voice Carry-Over (VCO) technologies that allow children and youth with hearing difficulties to communicate over the phone with their own voice.
  • Physical Aids: For children and youth with physical mobility, stability, motor coordination, and range of motion challenges, several technologies are available to assist them in completing their schoolwork, including audio books for youth who cannot physically handle books; keyboard adapters such as keyguards to prevent mistyping from tremors or loss of control; voice recognition software for children who cannot type.

The ALSC Toolkit for Services to Special Populations is a great resource designed to help librarians develop or enhance library services to special populations of children and families. It is the culmination of a year-long project by the Library Service to Special Population Children and Their Caregivers Committee. For each special population, there is:

  • A brief introduction
  • Subject headings and keywords for catalog and online searching
  • Resources for further study including organizations, online and print resources
  • A listing of subject matter experts within the library community
  • Examples of existing partnerships between libraries and community organizations.

Be sure to check out pages 31-35 to find out more about improving access for children with print disabilities.”

Posted on: December 19, 2018, 6:43 am Category: Uncategorized

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