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Adaptive Technology is Here! Now What?

by on March 14, 2013

In my last post, I talked about some of the great possibilities out there for adaptive, or assistive, technology. Here is the promised follow up with information on some things you can look into doing to promote assistive technology and services, as well as learn about what your community needs are

Focus groups are one really great way to get together to discuss a particular topic. At Pikes Peak Library District, Colorado Springs, Colorado, we have an adaptive technology team whose charge it is to investigate new and different forms of assistive technology and services, as well as do outreach and form partnerships with organizations serving people with disabilities. To glean advice from representatives of agencies throughout the city, our team invited them to come and learn about what the library offers to people with disabilities. We also had questions to ask them regarding what we could do to make things better. Even though we had limited participation, we received some important feedback. We even made a small change to our website based on their suggestions. In addition, we met with a doctor who specifically serves patients with low vision. He was kind enough to come to one of our libraries, evaluate our adaptive technology station, and talk about what we could do to serve people with low vision better.

Another excellent way to collect information and make people aware of your offerings is by meeting people where they are. However, before you do this type of outreach, you may want to have some information available in formats that are more accessible. In our research, we found recommendations for flyers for people with low vision in Arial, 18 point font, with high contrast (we used yellow paper with black print). We take flyers printed in this style with our adaptive technology information to any outreach event.

With your research completed, you now need to let people know about your services. Our team made a list of the organizations in town that serve people with disabilities and went to meet some of the people in charge and share our information. During this process, we were also able to learn a bit more about whom the various agencies served and what they provided to their clients. In addition, we try to go to any events that are specifically for people with disabilities. Many of the agencies that serve people with disabilities hold fairs where people can present their services.  General health fairs are also a good place to go to let the public know about the library and adaptive technology.

As well as doing outreach, two of the members of our group attend a coalition meeting of representatives from various community groups that work with people with disabilities. They are able to share information and learn about what others are doing. This meeting has led us to some of the outreach events we have gone to.

Beyond our outreach, we have been able to provide programming for a few groups in our community. One of our team members went to Goodwill to give a storytime for people with developmental disabilities. Another team member gave a tour and computer class specifically for another group. The children’s department is planning on attending training on how to provide sensory storytimes this year. These storytimes are developed for people with various disabilities and provide tactile aspects that add to the story. To learn more, you can visit the Touching Stories website. This company provides kits that can be used for these types of programs. After training, hopefully we will be offering these specialized storytimes regularly.

Many ways to serve patrons with disabilities exist. Adaptive technology and related services are an essential part to what the library provides to the community. Once you have it in place, get out there and let people know!