Libraries are commonly understood to be the repositories of the human experience, storehouses which take that human experience and, from it, create opportunities for library consumers to “learn, grow, and know”. But what if someone you know has a print disability* and cannot use the ‘typical’ resources offered at your local library? Because one of my areas of interests is accessibility, and because statistics show that approximately 21 million Americans are blind or visually impaired, I want to share some resources with you.
Several years ago I was lucky enough to spend an afternoon with Danielle Miller, Program Manager of the Washington Talking Book and Braille Library, part of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) of the Library of Congress. (Every state has an NLS-affiliated library.) The phrase “That All May Read” comes from the NLS website.
The interview gave me a good understanding of what they offer, and I realized what a great resource this library is for state residents toward achieving the universal accessibility described in the ALA’s Bill of Rights: “A person’s right to use the library should not be denied or abridged because of disabilities.”
In addition to the NLS site, listed below are some online resources for people with print disabilities, as well as for parents and teachers with children/students who have print disabilities, in the hopes of some day achieving equal use:
- If you’re a teacher, and want to help students in your classroom, visit the website Learning Through Listening: Classroom Tools and Sound Advice (http://ltl.learningally.org/)
- If you’re a parent or educator, LD Online (http://www.ldonline.org/about/) can provide both information and solutions, providing “articles, multimedia, monthly columns by noted experts, first person essays, children’s writing and artwork, a comprehensive resource guide, very active forums, and a Yellow Pages referral directory of professionals, schools, and products”
- If you have a print disability, there is an online resource, Bookshare, “Books without Barriers” (https://www.bookshare.org/cms), the largest provider of accessible reading materials for those with print disabilities, with “…unlimited access to accessible books, textbooks, newspapers and magazines. Additionally, free access technology makes it easy to read books with a computer.”
- If you are looking for a physical bricks-and-mortar library, The American Foundation for the Blind has a find tool for all US States and Territories (http://www.afb.org/directory.aspx)
- National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (http://www.loc.gov/nls/) – you can apply for NLS membership, available to U.S. residents and citizens living abroad, here: https://www.nlstalkingbooks.org/talkingbooksform/?loclr=nlstalk To speak to an NLS librarian in your service area during normal business hours, call toll free 1-888-NLS-READ and follow the prompts; your call will be connected to the appropriate library
- National Federation of the Blind (https://nfb.org/about-the-nfb) is the largest organization of blind and low-vision people in the United States; its goal is the “complete integration of the blind into society on the basis of equality” and has a great Resources for Learning list (https://nfb.org/learning)
*Some people reading this article may be wondering exactly what constitutes a “print disability” : a print disability is quite simply any aspect that hinders a person’s ability from accessing print in the “standard” way, whether it’s because of a visual impairment, learning disability, or physical disability (for example, not being able to hold a book).