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Disability tools are promoted within the library community as a means of enhancing access to information for library users with disabilities, usually those that come into the category of 'print-impairment' such as vision impairments and dyslexia. There is a huge number of programs available, from screen readers (that read aloud all functions of a computer including menus and commands, usually used by blind people) and text-to-speech programs (that read aloud designated text, usually used by people with vision impairments or dyslexia) to simple display modifiers that change the font or background colour of the screen or even the size and colour of the cursor.
EIFL FOSS has produced a Step-By-Step Guide to FOSS Disability Tools for Libraries, which you can find here.
One of the most interesting packages of disability tools is AccessApps, which packages into a single download over 60 free and open source tools that will operate from a memory stick. The memory stick can be carried with the user to any Windows PC, and when inserted will provide access to all of the tools via its own menu system. The tools included in AccessApps are not only of benefit to users with disabilities, but also include mind-mapping software, audio-recording tools, presentation aids and image-editing tools.
For an excellent case study of Public Library networks utilising disability tools, see this link describing the project to install NVDA (a screen reading tool for blind users) by the Aotearoa People’s Network Kaharoa, which is a service of The National Library of New Zealand that provides free access to broadband internet services in public libraries so that all New Zealanders can benefit from accessing, experiencing and creating digital content. Beginning by allowing access to NVDA for one customer via a USB drive, through a process of communication and testing, over 500 computers in APNK partner libraries around the country now have this accessibility tool installed. Setting this benchmark has meant that at least one major metropolitan library has followed suit installing NVDA on their 170 public internet computers.
Themed Week on Disability Tools: January 2011
The first Themed Week of 2011 focussed on Disability Tools. Details of the activities as well as links to recordings of the online session and a collaborative information document can be found in the related news story. Read the news story about the Disability Tools Themed Week.
A pilot was undertaken at the University of Zimbabwe Library to provide access and training on two tools from the AccessApps collection, Virtual Magnifying Glass and Balabolka, to library users who require such assistance. They are also piloting AccessApps memory sticks. Read a news article about the early work of this case study. You can read the full, final report from the pilot here, and an executive overview of the pilot here.
The EIFL-PLIP programme also has a project working with talking books (DAISY books) in Mongolia. Read about the Mongolia Talking Books case study.