Sample Presentation Script

Universal Access: Electronic Resources in Libraries


(Introduction: Pages 1 through 6) This section provides a sample script for delivering a half-day to full-day presentation covering all of the topics listed in the outline. Tailor the script to your chosen program length, content and audience.

Presentation Outline

Introduction

General Library Access

Adaptive Technology

Electronic Resources

Summary


Introduction

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UNIVERSAL ACCESS: Electronic Information in Libraries

I'm here today to share with you information and issues related to people with disabilities, electronic resources, and libraries.

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Computers
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Adaptive Technology
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Electronic Resources
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Opportunities

Recent advances in adaptive computer technology, greater reliance on computers, and increased availability and networking of electronic information resources have resulted in life-changing opportunities for many people with disabilities. In combination, these technologies provide many people with disabilities better access to education, careers, and other life experiences.

Libraries play an important role in ensuring equitable access to information for all members of our society. In addition, federal legislation mandates that public institutions, including libraries, provide accommodations for people with disabilities so that they can utilize the same services and resources as other people.

What are some of the electronic resources currently in your library?

Presenter Note: Solicit audience input to list items such as CD-ROM encyclopedias and indexes, online catalogs, WWW pages, and full-text databases.

The information covered in this presentation will provide you with tools and insights that will help ensure that these electronic resources are accessible to the broadest audience. As an extra benefit, you will find that being sensitive to the needs of people with disabilities can often make access easier for everyone.

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Program Outline

Our program today will cover these five topics. To begin I will share some success stories or examples of the impact that adaptive technology for computers and electronic resources has had for people with disabilities. Then we will consider the most important legislative directives on the issue and look at some statistics about people with disabilities. We will then consider the bigger picture of access to libraries and library services for people with disabilities. With that background, a videotape presentation and discussion of adaptive technology for computers will bring our focus to electronic resources in libraries. The last segment of the program will include the second videotape presentation and a discussion of universal design of electronic resources applied to the development of World Wide Web pages.

Today's presentation will help you understand the impact of these technologies for people with disabilities while giving you the tools to begin implementing them in your library. Your packet of handouts is one of the tools that will help you apply the ideas presented. Let's walk through it.

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The following handouts are in your packet.

Much of the information presented today is provided in these handouts. I will let you know which handout covers the information we are focusing on as we go through the presentation. Keep the handouts handy to save from taking duplicative notes.

Success Stories

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I'm going to start out today by sharing with you a few stories of people with disabilities who are able to access information resources thanks to the availability of adaptive technology and accessible electronic resources. You'll meet them in the videotape we'll view shortly.

These stories provide examples of people with disabilities who are successfully pursuing avocations, education, and careers thanks to adaptive technology and electronic resources. During our presentation today, we will be learning how to ensure that there will be many more success stories like these for people with disabilities.

Legal Issues

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According to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (504) and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), "no otherwise qualified individual with a disability shall, solely by reason of his/her disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity of a public entity." Footnote 1

The ADA and the regulations promulgated to implement it have stressed that people with disabilities should be provided the same services as others, unless this would be less effective. The Department of Justice has stated that "Integration is fundamental to the purpose of the American with Disabilities Act." If accommodation, or an adjustment is needed to make a resource, program or facility accessible to a person with a disability, the individual's preference of accommodation must be given primary consideration. Footnote 2

In short, libraries must assure that people with disabilities can participate in library programs and utilize library resources as independently as possible. And this includes electronic information resources. As legal questions about the implications of the ADA for access to electronic information resources are tested, libraries are being required to provide access to these services.

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According to decisions in recent cases on access to electronic resources, libraries in academic institutions must proactively and deliberately plan for accessibility. A recent letter from the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights noted:

Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires a public college to take appropriate steps to ensure that communications with persons with disabilities "are as effective as communications with others" [28 C.F.R. ss 35.160(a)]. OCR has repeatedly held that the term "communication" in this context means the transfer of information, including (but not limited to) the verbal presentation of a lecture, the printed text of a book, and the resources of the Internet.

The letter continues:

Title II further states that, in determining what type of auxiliary aid and service is necessary, a public college shall give primary consideration to requests of the individual with a disability [28 C.F.R. ss 35.106(b)(2)]. Footnote 3

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In providing guidance on expectations for libraries in providing access to electronic resources, the letter states:

Modern adaptive technology has radically affected the degree to which it is economically feasible to make printed materials and computer based information systems accessible to blind patrons. The larger and more financially endowed the library, the higher the expectation that a greater volume of information will be made available within a shorter amount of time, particularly when reasonably priced adaptive technology is available to replace tasks that previously required personnel. An important indicator regarding the extent to which a public library is obligated to utilize adaptive technology is the degree to which it is relying on technology to serve its non-disabled patrons. The more technology that has been purchased by a public library to serve non-disabled patrons, the more reasonable the expectation that it will employ technology such as scanners to serve its patrons with disabilities. Footnote 4

As libraries increasingly provide electronic resources, they are legally obligated to ensure accessibility for people with disabilities.

Definitions and Statistics

So, what exactly does "person with a disability" mean?

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"Person with a disability" means "any person who has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities including walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working; has a record of such an impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment."

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Examples of qualifying disabilities covered by legislation may include, but are not limited to, spinal cord injuries, loss of limbs, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, hearing impairments, visual impairments, speech impairments, specific learning disabilities, head injuries, psychiatric disorders, diabetes, cancer, and AIDS.

The examples listed here are conditions which limit people's abilities to perform specific tasks. Some of these conditions are readily apparent; some are invisible. Some require that we provide special accommodations in the library; some do not. Additionally, some people who have conditions with the same label may have very different abilities when it comes to performing specific tasks. For example, one student who has cerebral palsy may have difficulty walking. For another student, cerebral palsy may result in no functional use of her/his hands or voice.

Now that we discussed the definition of disability according to the ADA, let's consider some statistics to gain a better understanding of this service population.

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According to surveys conducted in 1991-1992, 9.6% or 1 in 10 Americans has a severe disability that substantially limits at least one major life activity. 19.4 % or 1 in 5 Americans has a disability. Footnote 5

In addition, we can expect the number of library patrons with disabilities to increase. Some reasons for this increase include:

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Advances in medical technology and techniques result in greater numbers of people who survive traumatic accidents and problematic births.

Improvements in technology make it possible for more people with disabilities to live independently and have productive lives for which they will want and need library resources.

Increased awareness of people with disabilities' rights to accommodations and equal opportunities in education and employment, guaranteed by 504 and the ADA, has, and will continue to encourage more people to pursue these activities and request accommodations.

The creation of federal and state mandated K-12 and higher education academic support programs helps more students with disabilities complete high school and enter college and careers. The number of students with disabilities enrolled in universities and colleges has already increased. In 1994, 9.2% of all full-time, first-time entering freshman reported a disability, up from 2.6% in 1978.6 This trend will create a greater demand for accessible information resources in academic libraries.

The aging of the baby boomer generation will cause a significant demographic shift in our society, increasing the number of people with low vision, hearing impairments, and other disabilities related to the aging process.

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Among people aged 18-44, 5% have a severe disability; among people aged 65-74, 25% have a severe disability; and among people aged 75-84, 42% have a severe disability. Footnote 7

All of these factors are leading to increased numbers of people with disabilities who are and will be requesting services at libraries.

Summary

The purpose of this introduction is to help you understand why libraries need to be prepared to serve people with disabilities. The legal imperatives of the ADA and other laws and the expected increase of people with disabilities in our constituencies and argue strongly for immediate action. Libraries will be best prepared to serve patrons with disabilities if they strive to include them in regularly provided services. This is best achieved by using universal design principles when designing facilities, equipment, services and resources; by providing a base level of adaptive technology; and by developing a policy and procedures for handling requests for accommodation. By taking these steps the library will be better able to respond quickly to more specialized requests for accommodation.

The rest of today's presentation will help you develop an understanding of adaptive technology and of universal design principles so that you can help develop accessible services and resources for your library.