Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

The Exclusion of Persons with Visual Impairment in Nigerian Academic Libraries' Websites

Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

The Exclusion of Persons with Visual Impairment in Nigerian Academic Libraries' Websites

Article excerpt

Introduction

University library websites constitute important access points to online resources for library users including persons with disabilities. This is evidenced by the United Nations' adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which guarantees that people with disabilities have the same access and opportunities as everyone else to participate in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private settings open to accommodate the general public (United Nations, 2006). Within the library and information science (LIS) profession, equal access has been emphasized as one of the foundational principles of intellectual freedom and participation for members of the society (American Library Association, 2004; International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, 2015; Yoon, Dols, Hulscher & Newberry, 2016). Moreover, digital formats have become an acceptable standard for information exchange, which reinforces the equitable provision of online information services to all types of library users. This paper therefore examines the extent of inclusion or exclusion of persons with visual impairments in the websites of leading university libraries in Nigeria. The implications of the extent of inclusion or exclusion for the issue of equity of library services are also examined in this paper. Moreover, this study evaluates the resource richness or otherwise of the websites of leading university libraries in Nigeria. Then, the resources and services availability are discussed in relative to the need for inclusiveness of patrons with visual impairment in packaging information services.

Statement of the Problem

Many persons with visual impairment have been pursuing postsecondary studies, succeeding in careers, and participating in community life. This can be adduced to several factors such as technological advancements, legislation, and changing attitudes of persons with disabilities. Technology plays a role in the level of access to information among persons with disabilities. Also, the websites of university libraries could provide necessary support for library users including persons with visual impairment. However, some websites of the university libraries do not have relevant resources or services for people with visual impairment. In this case, many persons with visual impairment have been deprived of access to electronic resources. Consistent with this situation, several studies have shown that the rapid growth of information technology has had a marginalizing effect on many groups, including those defined by age, socioeconomic status, literacy, language, culture, geography, and disability (Jaeger et al., 2011; Lazar & Jaeger, 2011; and Yoon et al. 2016).

A close observation of different categories of users in the university libraries in Nigeria shows that persons with visual impairment experience marginalization as information resources in the university libraries are designed to suit a generic population. Studies have associated the marginalization of persons with visual impairment in the university libraries with some challenges such as inadequate budget, poor information and telecommunication infrastructure, limited access to high speed internet, low take-off of open access repositories and digital libraries, non-availability of adaptive technology and specialized software packages (Adetoro, 2011; Lucky and Achebe, 2013; Zaid, 2017). One may also observe that the marginalization is a fall-out of some cultural misconceptions that visually impaired are incapable of any intellectual activities.

A typical example of marginalization of persons with visual impairment in the university libraries is the barriers this category of users experience in their efforts to access electronic information. Some studies reveal that typical library websites are not truly welcoming and accessible for persons with various disabilities as Web developers do not adequately factored their information needs into the design of websites and other Internet-based information services (Lazar & Jaeger, 2011; Lewis, 2013; Southwell & Slater, 2012; Yoon,, Dols, Hulscher &Newberry, 2016). …

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