Access to information resources by the visually impared using assistive technology: sharing the experience of Kenyatta University Library
Mwiti, Beatrice K.
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As we think of the 21st Century library user, we cannot be oblivious of the pivotal role of technology and its requisite inclusion in the library, if the library is to be of benefit to the all users. This presentation looks into the aspects of library inclusion, innovation and access to digital and print information resources for library users – keenly focusing on the visually impaired (VI) ( partially/low vision and totally blind) users- as pivotal in realization of the 21st Century library. How can the visually impaired students access the information resources that their able peers can access and conduct relevant studies and research with ease and efficiency? With the vast growth of digital libraries, it is easy for the visually impaired to miss out on vital information which is available in digital format. Kenyatta University Post Modern Library has immensely supported use of digital resources for the VI by putting in place assistive technology. Assistive technology encompasses use of student-centered computer adapted software and active process of interactive data exploration for the visually impaired non-visually. The Library has witnessed major transformation, from the archaic modes of recording via cassette and use of microfiche for reading and storage. Modern technology is availing journals, books and coursework in digital format for access by the VI using Jaws and NVDA software. Other facilities which contribute greatly to the academic standards of this category of users are recording using computer recording technology and note-taking facilities using speech-to-text recognition facilities. Braille is also used as external memory aid to prevent high mental workload levels and speech synthesis is used to access detailed information on demand. By offering both tactile and audio techniques to extract information efficiently, the students with visual impairment will function independently and effectively while accessing information library.