Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Library Services to Disabled Students in the Digital Era: Challenges for Outcome Assessment

Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Library Services to Disabled Students in the Digital Era: Challenges for Outcome Assessment

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Libraries are service organizations which give services without discrimination to their numerous users, including disabled people. In recent years, the information superhighway, the Internet, has become a global gateway for information dissemination with the ability to share worldwide collections of information. Digital libraries have become significant channels for information dissemination by individuals or groups that select, organize and catalogue large numbers of documents (King et al, 2003). Similarly, the use of information technology is creating new challenges in research, instruction, and organization.

As more people with disabilities attend higher institutions, it is incumbent upon library management to provide the same level of service to them as is provided to users without disabilities. No doubt this group of people is making growing use of libraries and requires enhanced assistance in their search for data-based materials. With the new technologies available in libraries, users are now being provided with unprecedented access to communication and information all over the world. A crucial requirement for libraries is that the information they preserve and deliver in many formats must be made available to all including disabled users. The United Nations Organization (UNO) recognizes this need when it states that,

"To enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life, states parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communication, including information and communication technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and rural areas. These measures, which shall include the identification and elimination of obstacles and barriers to accessibility, shall apply to, inter alia:

a. Builders, roads, transportation and other indoor and outdoor facilities, including schools, housings, medical facilities and work places;

b. Information, communications and other services including electronic services and emergency services." (UNO, 2006).

In recent times, a good number of articles have discussed technologies that would enable students with disabilities take full advantage of library services. However, the sad truth is that the proliferation of information does not guarantee its accessibility. Availability does not equate to accessibility. The truth is that people with disability cannot use a library that has been designed for non disabled users.

There are various types of disabilities. The World Health Organization (WHO) defined disability as an umbrella term covering impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions. In this study, we will be focusing only on visual impairments and mobility challenges.

STATEMENT OF PROBLEM

The ideal library in our contemporary world can be described as a facility where every member of the community is offered the full benefits of the latest information in both print and digital formats.

However, Nigerian University Libraries have been criticized on the grounds that people with disabilities are not provided for by the libraries. Internet use remains beyond the reach of many disabled library users as they are physically and psychologically unfit to do so. Librarians are not helping issues as any help rendered to disabled users is considered as an act of sympathy rather than as a necessary requirement which libraries must provide.

Infrastructure is another problem in most libraries in Nigerian Universities. There is hardly any provision of ramps or any electronic devices that assist wheelchair users to gain entry into the library. For the visually-impaired users, large monitors using large fonts, is one way to improve visibility but they are hardly available in our University libraries. …

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