Volume 25, Number 3, 2003

The HP Initiative and Cleveland Public Library

by: Barbara Mates, Cleveland Public Library

Imagine if there were a library genie ready and willing to make all your information access wishes come true, what would you wish for? More than likely you would probably wish for technologies which would help persons who are blind, deaf, or physically impaired use computers to access information. Library genies don’t come along that often, but last fall, the Cleveland Public Library along with three other public libraries and two academic libraries had their access wishes granted by a genie called Hewlett-Packard.

In February 2003, two workstations were installed in the Memorial-Nottingham branch, which is adjacent to the Cleveland Library for the Blind and Physically Impaired. In addition to software designed for those with print access impairments, the package included a myriad of specialized keyboards, switches, trackballs, and the state-of-the-art Tracker 2000, which allows persons who are quadriplegic, but have voluntary control of their head to use a computer. The stations also included often-overlooked items such as task lighting and an adjustable work surface for those using a wheelchair.

What does this mean for the community? It means virtually anyone who wishes to use a library computer to access information can now do so. This means community partners such as The American Council of the Blind, The National Federation for the Blind, the United Cerebral Palsy Association, and the Independent Living Councils can tell their clients: “Yes, there is a public facility where you can go to use a public PC.”

We are fortunate that Cleveland Public Library supports the position of Adaptive Technology (AT) Librarian and has a retired librarian, Steve Morse, who is willing and able to train patrons whenever needed. The training is a key component of the HP Initiative, and to that end, HP supports online tutorials. We found these helpful to introduce staff and patrons to use with programs such as JAWS (screen readers) and using Windows with AT.

The only difficult part of this venture is marketing the technology to the public, and this same public finding the means to get to the library. Once these hurdles are conquered we will see a patronage which truly reflects Cleveland’s diversity.