Have You Visited a Public Library Lately?

By Jule Ann Lieberman

You might say, “Why? There is nothing there I can read.” Well this is not exactly true in all libraries. Pennsylvania’s Initiative on Assistive Technology (PIAT) has worked with grant makers and has placed assistive technology in regional libraries across the state. Two projects were developed over the past few years that provide libraries with accessible work stations and equipment for persons with vision loss.

Get REAL, Regional Education Assisting Life Long Learning, provided libraries with access technology work stations that included a Topaz video magnification system, computers with JAWS and guide software, document scanners, and low-vision reading solutions. Get REAL was funded by The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation’s Independent Living Older Blind Program. It was implemented in partnership with the PA Department of Education, Office of Commonwealth Libraries and the PA Association for the Blind. Get REAL also provided the Book Mobiles in several communities. Please contact your area library for details about their assistive equipment.

Another PIAT project, Access beyond the Stacks provided six regional libraries surrounding Philadelphia with portable low-vision devices. The equipment includes a Ruby portable video magnifier and an iPad with Zoom Magnifier, Voice Over enabled, scan and read apps and video magnifier apps. Also available are two different iPad stands for increased comfort during usage. Access beyond the Stacks was funded through the generosity of the Albert B. Millett Memorial Fund, a BNY Mellon Mid-Atlantic Charitable Trust. Contact the following libraries for Access beyond the Stacks equipment use: Easttown Library & Information Center, Chester County Library & District Center, Free Library of Northampton Township, Horsham Township Library, Ridley Township Library, and Warminster Township Library.

The Free Library of Philadelphia in cooperation with the Library for the Blind and Handicapped has for many years provided accessible work stations in city locations. The equipment includes: computers with Zoomtext and JAWS, a scanner with Kurzweil 1000, braille embossers, and braille displays. It is recommended that you contact the library directly to determine availability of this equipment. Branches with accessible work stations are: Central Library, Northeast Regional Library, Joseph E. Coleman Northwest Regional Library, West Philadelphia Regional Library, Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, and the Independence Branch.

Did you find a library near you? If not, please contact us here at PIAT. Perhaps we can provide assistive technology for your community’s library in a future project. You might also consider that PIAT has many of these devices available to borrow from our equipment lending library for short-term loan. Remember that when we do not make use of these opportunities, they tend to disappear. For more information about these projects and our lending library, call 800-204-7428 or email me at atinfo@temple.edu. You can also learn more about our programs by visiting disabilities.temple.edu/programs/assistive/piat/

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