Academic journal article Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services

The New World of Accessible Editions for Older Adults

Academic journal article Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services

The New World of Accessible Editions for Older Adults

Article excerpt

As the population is ageing, and the diversity of reading needs' and disabilities are better understood, it makes sense that information and books are provided in different formats to suit these needs. There is now no reason why people should have to give up something they love because their eyesight changes. Libraries, which provide books and other information for the public, can now begin to meet the special reading needs of the public by providing books in accessible formats that are easier to read for people who are for, whatever reason, struggling to read. ReadHowYouWant (RHYW) was formed to produce books in a reader's format of choice at the date of publication and for a fair price. Edited version of a paper presented at the Next Chapters conference, State Library of NSW 1-2 May 2009.

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My sister loved reading. MS disrupted her eye tracking. She stopped reading. Reformatting the book by increasing the font size, reducing the line length and increasing the line spacing allowed her to read again. My sister's experience made me realise that one size does not fit all when it comes to books, and that the single edition of the book is outdated. ReadHowYouWant (RHYW) was formed to produce books in a reader's format of choice at the date of publication and for a fair price.

Making books accessible and easy to find adds value to the books for everyone

The value of information is different for different people. For an author, the value of a piece of information is the revenue it generates and/or the change to the author's reputation made by the publication of the information. Publishers tend to value information on its revenue potential. For libraries, the value of information is the number of people accessing information and the frequency of access to the information.

For a reader, who pays money for the information, value is how reading the information changes either

* how the reader feels eg a good novel or poem or a feeling of security by reading the recognized authority on a question

* what the information allows the reader to do that the reader could not otherwise do.

Information is not worth anything to a reader, publisher, author or library if it cannot be found or cannot be read. Making information accessible to as many people as possible is the way to add value to information. But this only works if the readers know that there are new formats which can help them to read, or to read better. It is in everyone's interest to inform readers about the new formats and where they can be accessed.

The sobering statistics

RHYW's best estimates of people who cannot, or do not want to, read a standard edition of a book are

* vision impairment--about 5% of the population have a significant vision impairment of some kind (different countries have different definitions of vision impairment so comparing statistics can be difficult). This number is increasing as the population ages

* learning based language difficulties--10-20%, depending on severity and definition

* English as a second language--depends on migrant population and on the native language of the migrants. Migrants speaking a phonetic language eg Spanish have considerable difficulty with English. In Australia, possibly 1 in 3 migrants or 10% of the population could be affected

* the significant ageing population who can read proficiently but who find reading small print is too uncomfortable. Readers in this category are not excluded from reading in general but may be excluded from reading individual books.

In a country like Australia, the number of people who need or want accessible information could be as high as 30% of the population, and may increase beyond that as the baby boomers develop age related reading issues.

Fluency and literacy

Reading involves decoding images on paper--letter and words--and then processing this information to get meaning from the symbols and words. …

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