Academic journal article African Journal of Library, Archives and Information Science

Library Services for Students with Visual Impairment in Selected Universities in Nigeria

Academic journal article African Journal of Library, Archives and Information Science

Library Services for Students with Visual Impairment in Selected Universities in Nigeria

Article excerpt

Introduction

The provision of library service for visually impaired students in tertiary institutions has been a pertinent issue in the field of special education, as well as library and information science. Library services can best be described as the services a library offers to its users. Majinje (2014) defined it as facilities provided by a library to all users including the visually impaired individuals, as well as those in wheel chairs. Studies have shown that students with visual impairment in tertiary institutions need as much access to information, ideas, theories, and facts as their abled counterparts to conduct meaningful research and do well in academics (Katz, 2013; Spungin, Ferrell and Monson, 2017).

The concept 'visual impairment' is used to define a wide range of vision loss, which includes those with total blindness and those whose levels of vision loss are less severe (Zimmerman and Zebehazy, 2011). Visual impairment affects the educational performance of a child to such an extent that he or she requires an adaptation in the teaching methods and the material needed for learning. Visually impaired students include those with low vision and those with no vision. Fakoya-Michael and Fakoya (2015) noted that these students experience varying degrees of sight loss that may necessitate diversity in the level of their information needs and type of library resources required.

Delivering appropriate library services could enhance the academic performance of these students (Wong and Webb, 2011), increase their reasoning skills (Megan, 2015; Kumar and Rajmma, 2016), and increase their thinking capacity to remember facts (Soria, Fransen and Nackerud, 2013). Studies also show that academic libraries support at-risk students through personalised instruction, provision of network services, and adaptive technology devices (New York Comprehensive Center, 2011; Gavigan and Kurtz, 2010). Specifically, providing library services to students with visual impairment in modes that are appropriate to them gives them convenient access to books and other learning resources. Unfortunately, when the library system is put in place, little or no consideration is made for this group of students, especially in developing countries (Phukubje and Ngoepe, 2017). This widens the information gap between students with visual impairment and some of their sighted counterparts.

To bridge the gap, various international bodies have come to the aid of visually impaired students or individuals by developing policies on equal library services to all learners irrespective of their forms of disability (International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA), 2015). Hill (2013) observed that the Australian Library and Information Science Association has guidelines on library standards for individuals with disabilities. Hill further observed that there is a human rights law in Canada that prohibits discrimination of people with disabilities. The UNESCO Salamanca statement and framework for action on special needs education also advocates for the inclusion of learners into mainstream classrooms irrespective of their disabilities (Chireshe 2013; Samkange, 2013). In Nigeria, the National Policy on Education (Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2008) noted that students with disabilities (including the visually impaired) should be provided with equal access to educational opportunities in an inclusive setting. This policy was meant to bridge the gap in the educational experiences of students with disabilities and those without disabilities.

Nevertheless, studies have revealed that Nigerian university libraries, as well as those located in most developing countries, demonstrate disparity of library facilities provided for students with visual impairment and those without disabilities (Ekwelem, 2013, Eskay and Chima, 2013). Although research evidence shows the need to provide library services for students with visual impairment, only a few of these studies have attempted to confirm from the recipients that services are actually being provided, so as to identify gaps in the service provision. …

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