Good Technology for Disabled People-And Getting It Used-Is the Idea at the Phoenix Public Library Special Needs Center
Roatch, Mary A., American Libraries
Good technology for disabled people--and getting it used--is the idea at the Phoenix Public Library Special Needs Center
A PUBLIC LIBRARY, WHICH EXISTS FOR everyone, should be accessible to everyone. In Phoenix, with the help of technology, it is. Our Special Needs Center was developed to make the library available to handicapped people, their families, and the agencies serving them. Our high-tech aids supplement such basic resources as periodicals, newspapers, large-type books, circulating toys, braille, audio tapes, and videocassettes.
Computers and other new technology can help equalize learning opportunity for handicapped people. For example, synthetic speech and the "artificial intelligence' of the Kurzweil Reading Machine have made most of the library's books instantly available to blind users. A book is placed on the machine, an optical scanner photographs the print, and the information is sent to a computer unit to be read in a synthetic voice. The reading machine--combined with a VersaBraille paperless braille computer, Apple Ile computer with Echo II synthetic speech, and a letter-quality Diablo Printer--enables a blind person to read and write braille or printed material electronically, edit manuscripts, and print out corrected copies. The full circle is completed when the new copy is placed on the Kurzweil and the blind person can hear the revised text. Now that individual can read and write without dependence on a sighted person.
The Center's computer software programs include several word processing programs for blind users, such as Braille-Edit, Documents, Directories, and Textalker. There is also a Braille Fingerspelling program, and education software with synthetic speech. Other technological aids at the Center include a TDD (telephone device for the deaf), video print enlarger, and a microfiche enlarger.
Using these machines has been an exciting venture for both staff and disabled patrons. Our blind library users have ranged from four to 80. …