Technology Access and Assistive Technology

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Four Principles and Some Web Sites

There's a lot out there on technology access and assistive/adaptive technology, but it can be quite confusing. And the issues are many and sometimes tricky.

The first thing to keep in mind is the concept of “universal design.” For a really good explanation, point your browser to the Center for Applied Special Technology at www.cast.org. Basically, “universal design” is the philosophy and practice of planning facilities and services right from the beginning so that they are useable by the widest possible range of people, including people with disabilities. People with disabilities shouldn't be an afterthought, after every is already planned.

Second, make sure you're covering the full range of disabilities and not just one or two. Many libraries mistakenly think that they only need to concern themselves with serving people who are blind or visually impaired. They may think of people who are in wheelchairs only in terms of ramps, elevators, bathrooms and, perhaps, tables of the right height, but forget about adaptive devices and other services. Too frequently, the 39 million American with leaning disabilities are not thought of at all. You may already know that you need to think about a broad range of disabilities, but many people don't, so it needs to be said.

Third, find yourself a good local vendor with real experience across a variety of disability areas. Do your homework and narrow your selections. Then see if you can get trial periods on things you'd like to consider for purchase. Your state's Talking Book Library or Library for the Blind and Handicapped might be able to give you some leads. For a listing, point your browser to lcweb.loc.gov/nls, the web page of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Or find out if your state has a Tech Access Center by going to www.ataccess.org or calling your Department of Education or Special Education.

Fourth, consider enlisting the aid of a near-by Disabilities Council or similar organization or creating an advisory group especially for the library. If you choose carefully, you can get both good advice and built-in advertising to the disabilities communities.

Other Web sites to go to:

Alliance for Technology Access www.ataccess.org
(see Computer Resources for People with Disabilities and check out the description and comments, including a kudo from Library Journal.)

Center for Accessible Technology www.cforat.org

Disability Resources, Inc. www.disabilityresources.org
(see the Librarians' Connection especially)

LD OnLine Finding Help section www.ldonline.org/finding_help/local_org/oregon.html

Equal Access to Software and Information (EASI) www.rit.edu/~easi

RESNA www.resna.org

And please let us know if you find really useful resources, so we can pass them along to others.