Special Patrons

Adaptive Technology

For people without disabilities, technology makes things convenient, whereas for people with disabilities, it makes things possible . . . [this] fact brings with it an enormous responsibility because the reverse is also true. Inaccessible technology can make things absolutely impossible for disabled people, a prospect we must avoid. Judith Heumann, Former Assistant Secretary of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, U.S. Department of Education

Adaptive technologies can help you provide more of your services to patrons, and as more of our services are technology-based, we need to think of how patrons with physical and other limitations might use these services.

In 1997, ALA conducted a survey called "The 1997 National Survey of U.S. Public Libraries and the Internet." This survey found that few libraries provide special software or hardware for persons with disabilities. Only 15.4 percent of urban libraries used technology that allowed disabled patrons to access their automated catalog and databases.

According to Barbara T. Mates, author of Adaptive Technology for the Internet: Making Electronic Resources Accessible to All http://www.ala.org/editions/samplers/mates/index.html, the national network of the National Library Service (NLS) for the Blind and Physically Handicapped provide leisure reading for three-quarters of a million people, (however) accessible, supplemental reference and ephemeral information is still lacking. This creates a discriminatory information gap between those who have access to information and those who do not. Librarians and Web masters can remedy the information gap by ensuring that the Websites they design are accessible to those using adaptive technology and that these librarians and Web masters purchase equipment and software that will facilitate this access.

Go to Useful websites on accessibility and adaptive technology.

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This page was updated on October 16, 2003.