Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Library and Information Services to the Visually Impaired Persons

Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Library and Information Services to the Visually Impaired Persons

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Libraries play a fundamental role in society. The resources and services they offer create opportunities for learning, support literacy and education, and help shape the new ideas and perspectives that are central to a creative and innovative society. Libraries represent different things to different people--from a place where mothers can take toddlers to read their first stories and students can study, to a service allowing anyone to borrow a book, access the Internet or do research. Quite simply, libraries offer a means by which we can gain access to knowledge. (Ben White, 2012). Information is essential to all human beings and every library's aim is to provide the right information at the right time and in the right format to its patrons regardless of race, religion, age, sex, nationality and language. This core function includes the provision of information to people with disabilities. International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in the Public Library Manifesto (1994) emphasize that; every library must provide proper services for those who do not have easy access to them, such as the mentally and physically disabled, the ill and the imprisoned.

"Disability is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. An impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations." (World Health Organization). More than 1 billion persons in the world have some form of disability. This corresponds to about 15% of the world's population. 'Visually impaired' is a general term used to describe people who are partially-sighted or completely blind. There are about 314 million visually impaired people globally with 45 million totally blind. India is home of 26,810,557 (26.8 millions) disabled persons which constitutes 2.21% of total population of the country. 5 million persons are visually impaired (disability in seeing) sharing 18.8% of total disabled persons in the country. (Census of India, 2011)

BARRIERS FOR VISUALLY IMPAIRED PERSONS

All over the world people with visual impairments has to face numerous difficulties as they seek to assert their position in a modern, complex and competitive world dominated by able-bodied individuals. People with disabilities are often excluded from social activities and are not treated in the same way as their able-bodied equals. The fact is that, in one way or another, their physical state means that they live a life that is perceived to be different from that of able-bodied people (Ochoggia 2003). Mandesi (2007) adds that people with disabilities face numerous challenges to access opportunities equal to those enjoyed by their peers in day-to-day life. Environmental, physical, legal and institutional barriers are found throughout society, and negative attitudes to persons with disabilities often cause social exclusion and are the hardest to overcome. Mandesi further insists that, for people with disabilities to be treated equally, physical barriers to accessing resources need to be removed and attitudes to be changed.

THE NATIONAL CONCERN

Government of India, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Department of Education (2005) in its 'Action Plan for Inclusive Education of Children and Youth with Disabilities' has mentioned its goal as "Recognizing Education for All children as a fundamental right, to ensure the inclusion of children and youth with disabilities in all available mainstream educational settings, by providing them with learning environment that is available, accessible, affordable and appropriate to help develop their learning and abilities."

Developed countries like USA, Canada, UK and many European nations have started their initiatives to facilitate the persons with disabilities (PWD) much before. …

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