Academic journal article African Research & Documentation

A Comparative Study of Availability and Access to Alternative Format by Visually Impaired Adults and Students in Nigeria

Academic journal article African Research & Documentation

A Comparative Study of Availability and Access to Alternative Format by Visually Impaired Adults and Students in Nigeria

Article excerpt


Alternative formats present the visually impaired with the opportunity to read and communicate like sighted persons. These materials are usually not available in quantities desirable to persons with visual impairment. Sighted persons can naturally read and communicate using the types of information materials available such as books, reference sources, serials, internet etc. But for persons with visual impairment, reading and communication comes in alternative formats such as Braille, talking books and large prints. Without alternative formats, persons with visual impairment cannot read and function well as members of the society. This is why it is crucial for every country to have a well organised arrangement for the production and utilisation of information materials by its visually impaired citizens. (Atinmo, 2000). Availability of alternative formats for the visually impaired in several countries is based on the need for equality in terms of accessibility to materials; even though what is attainable globally is a far cry from the desired. Brazier (2003) revealed that there are about two million persons with visual impairment who are served by a combination of public libraries and charities in the United Kingdom. She adds that only 31% used the library in a period of six months because materials availability, accessibility and services are perceived to be inappropriate.

In many primary and secondary schools, the pupils themselves make private and individual arrangements for study materials. There is an acute shortage of information materials and other information resources in alternative format at the primary and secondary school levels (Atinmo, 2002). At the tertiary level, information materials in alternative format for adult students are limited in supply. Few institutions provide alternative formats for use, but this is limited to the students in-house. Libraries for the visually impaired in Nigeria are believed to have inadequate alternative format in Braille, talking book and large prints as well as insufficient and obsolete facilities for the transcription and consequent provision of information materials. These inadequacies make it difficult for these libraries to meet the high demand for information materials by persons with visual impairment.

Studies suggest that inadequacies in the availability and access to alternative formats are global phenomena. According to the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions IFLA (2002), the situation is most critical in developing countries where 95% of blind people never attend school or are not literate. A few non-governmental organisations (NGOs), educational institutions and libraries scattered all over the country are the ones servicing persons with visual impairment. The materials made available by these institutions are patronised by those in school, and adults who became blind later in life through disease or accident. Adult persons with visual impairement in Nigeria patronise NGOs and public libraries while secondary school students are confined to their school libraries. To what extent do these libraries make alternative formats available and accessible to their visually impaired adults and secondary school users? This is the focus of this study.

Statement of the Problem

In recent times, there is evidence that points to high demand for information materials in alternative formats in libraries. However, the discontent exhibited by many persons with visual impairment who seek information suggests that the level of availability of alternative format in libraries is low and that the visually impaired are forced to read what is available and not what interests them. Access to materials that meet the reading needs of persons with visual impairment is limited. How available and accessible are alternative formats specifically for adults (working class and those in tertiary institutions) and secondary school students who are visually impaired in libraries? …

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