Assistive Technology at the Library

Assistive Technology at the Library

by Rosie Francis

Accessibility is a word that is often heard at the Ames Public Library (APL). Like other public spaces, the library wants to be accessible to all patrons and visitors. This includes having special parking spaces that are reserved for visitors who may need them, having ramps that are wheelchair and walker accessible and having elevators that are designed and built so patrons who use them are able to do so with ease. At the APL you will find the active use of assistive technology to help patrons and visitors.

Assistive technology is an umbrella term that refers to a range of products and services that help improve an individual’s ability to function with independence and access services and spaces. Assistive technology includes wheelchairs, walkers, communication aids, and technology that is adaptable to users who may have different needs.

Visitors and patrons at the APL have access to wheelchairs and walkers to use within the library building. The library also has a full size elevator that can accommodate wheelchair users. Other technology that patrons can use are print magnifiers, and a low vision reading station where readers can adjust readability by magnify the text, zooming in, and adjusting the contrast.

 At the library some of the physical collection is also available in the large print format. Large print titles are books that are printed with the text that is in a larger font size to make it easier to read for readers who may have issues with their vision. The content of the book is the same as the regular print book, but there are usually more pages in a large print book to accommodate the bigger print. In the online library catalog these titles are identified with the letters “LP” in the call number. The words “large print” is searchable in the APL online catalog and can be used to bring up a list of large print titles. You can also search the catalog to see if a particular title is available in large print by selecting the “Large print” option in the format options.

In the physical collection at the library, the large print books are shelved together in the Adult collection for ready access. In the juvenile and young adult collections they are shelved alongside regular print.

While these features speak to the physical library space and collection, increasing attention is also being paid to making virtual spaces accessible to all patrons through various assistive technology.

The e-collection at APL has multiple built it adaptive technology features that assist readers and make this collection more accessible. The e-collection at APL is available on multiple platforms, including Libby, Hoopla and Kanopy. Libby from Overdrive accounts for a large portion of the e-books and e-audiobooks. Libby has several assistive options that patrons can use. For instance one of the features that I have found most useful is the adjustable text size for e-books. Readers can increase the text size and also change the font style to one that is more comfortable. While on the subject of fonts, several of the e-books in Libby can be read in the OpenDyslexic font. This font has more generous line-spacing, and is bottom heavy with unique character shapes to help increase the readability.

The e-collection includes the e-audio collection and some of the assistive features on Libby include adjustable playing speed where users can choose from 48 speed settings. The menu in the app has also been changed to familiar and more intuitive looking icons for easier navigation. Libby is available as an app that can be downloaded for free from the App store and Google Play. If you need any help or information with the e-collection, we are happy to assist you.

The Ames Public Library is a community space where everyone is welcome. At APL we believe that this welcome includes making our physical and virtual spaces supportive to all users by alleviating frustrations that may occur with accessibility. In thoughtfully supporting our patrons needs we at APL hope to reduce access barriers and help all members of the community fully participate and benefit from the social, educational, and employment opportunities that come their way.