Last month I attended this conference about what libraries could do in order to better satisfy the needs of disabled users. The abstracts & slides of all of the very interesting talks from this conference can be found at http://library.bcu.ac.uk/conferencepapers.htm
The talk by Alistair McNaught dealt with how libraries could work with new technologies in order to support students and included lots of very practical tips and advice:
Alternative formats: the secret life of librarians, Alistair McNaught, JISC TechDis
Supporting info for this presentation can be found at www.techdis.ac.uk/development/libraries
Key, practical outcome of the Equality Act is to make info accessible in a variety of formats. Aim of session:
– demonstrate range of alternative formats & technologies we can use
– make us aware of the need for dialogue between different stakeholders (e.g. library, disability services, lecturers)
Need to be inclusive – not just offering services for the disabled. Some people might not identify as having a disability, e.g. visual impairments)
How can we make a difference?
– Information: find alternative formats
– Communication: with disability services, student support, etc
– Technology: facilitate use of different formats
– Advocacy: demand better!
Ebooks promote inclusivity – can be used with screenreaders, magnification, different text colours, etc
Be aware of tutor ignorance: tend to teach particular subjects in particular ways i.e. this is the key textbook. But there might be alternative resources they haven’t considered – PDFs, ebooks, podcasts, etc.
Collaboration in gaining alternative formats between library, tutors, disability services, etc.
Be aware of jargon! Showed example of very dyslexia-unfriendly dyslexia guide.
Lots of useful tips on how to manipulate info on screen with inbuilt tools in Word, PDF, and free technologies. E.g.
PDF – don’t pay for screen magnification software! Use zoom reflow (View>Zoom>Reflow) to magnify the text and have it displayed as a single column with no need to keep scrolling from left to right because its magnified. Can also use auto-scroll (View>Automatically scroll) to remove need for lots of mouse work.
– Use in-built Word headings for titles. This creates an easy to navigate screen view – useful for students with visual impairments or dyslexia as scanning the document quickly becomes easier.
– Using headings you can also send directly to MindMap. Again, useful for students with dyslexia
– If using zoom, use ‘web layout’. As with Adobe, this means the text is displayed in a single column no matter how magnified and prevents you having to keep scrolling from left to right.
Reading aids (download from http://www.fxc.btinternet.co.uk/assistive.htm)
Vu-bar – an on-screen slotted ruler to highlight text whilst reading. Useful for dyslexics who tend to skip or drop lines whilst reading.
T-Bar – a coloured bar to highlight text whilst reading. The online version of coloured bits of acetate!
RapidSet – allows easy changing of background and font colours.
Text to speech software (download from http://robobraille.org/frontpage)
RoboBraille – voice isn’t great, but converts digital documents into Braille or audio files
Xerte online – templates for producing interactive resources
CamStudio – instant video guides for downloading onto phones, etc from website
Suppliers, publishers, disability support staff, IT, other LS staff, etc etc.
In particular, I was impressed by the variety of free and easy to use tools available. Personally, I had no idea what was out there and how easy it is to make a significant difference to the way info is displayed on the computer screen. This is a clear benefit not only to those with learning and/or physical disabilities but also to anyone who spends a lot of time working at a computer.
As someone who’s had trouble with RSI and back/neck issues from working at a PC, I think these tools are great and have a much wider application than just for students with disabilities.
Post by : Sarah Pittaway