Volume 29, Number 3, Fall 2007

Illinois Creates Access to Digital Archival Images for the Visually Impaired

Lori Bell, Alliance Library System

Alliance Library System is pleased to announce "Audio Description Illinois," a new Web site with information on how libraries can use various techniques to make digital archival images available to the visually impaired on the Internet. Funding for this grant was awarded by the Illinois State Library, a division of the Office of Secretary of State, using funds provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services under the federal Library Services and Technology Act. Grant funds were used to develop and provide training for libraries across Illinois receiving digital imaging grants. Although the training sessions have been completed, the Web site is a rich resource for any library or agency interested in audio description.

"Libraries and the Web are hostile places for people with vision problems," stated Kitty Pope, executive director of the Alliance Library System. "Through audio description, they can enjoy the same access to historical photographs. The description can also enhance the experience for a sighted person viewing digital photos."

Audio Description (AD) is the descriptive narration of key visual elements of live theatre, television, movies, and other media to enhance their enjoyment by consumers who are blind or have low vision. It inserts audio explanations and descriptions of the settings, characters, and action taking place in such media when such information about these visual elements is not offered in the regular audio presentation.

The AD Web site contains recordings, Powerpoint presentations, and handouts from training sessions offered; examples of audio description of digital archives; best practices information; and a set of links to other resources on audio description. Ads created by grant-receiving libraries will be placed on the Web site as they are completed. Another Web site with examples of ADs for digital archival photos is the Alliance Library System/Mid-Illinois Talking Book Center project Illinois Alive! Early Illinois Heroes and Heroines: A Multimedia Montage."

For more information on this project, contact project coordinator Tom Peters of TAP Information Services.