Emerald Group Publishing Limited
The key to this work is encapsulated in the title of the first chapter; “Could Helen Keller use your library?” In the USA alone there are 12 million visually impaired persons plus 39 million learning‐disabled persons who cannot access printed materials because of their disabilities. Welcoming these people to a library adapted to their special needs opens the library to a whole new community of users.
Mates’ work quickly dispels the theory that screen‐based information is an impossible dream for those challenged physically or mentally. In Adaptive Technology, she suggests that equal access to information can be assisted by a number of very practical approaches to information management. Based on her work at Cleveland Public Library where she is Librarian for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Mates draws on many years of experience for this work. After considerable experimentation and thought solutions are presented that could be adopted in many if not all larger information establishments. A useful table towards the end of Chapter 1 summarises these.
In following chapters Mates and her contributors deal with some of the more challenging difficulties. Internet design, audio signal, Braille Internet and alternative devices are among the topics covered. Alternatives to conventional mouse and keyboard access to electronic sources are crucial to the needs of those physically challenged.
In view of the often specialised and expensive nature of adaptations to equipment and interfaces, one of the more valuable contributions made by this work is its chapter on funding. Adaptive Technology offers some valuable information on this topic despite its North American context. Contacting sources of funding, even knowing where to look, can seriously limit the extent to which information can be made accessible. An appendix of useful contacts is also provided, making the book invaluable to American information managers. There is also a further appendix listing libraries who offer advanced services for the challenged, an ideal basis for arranging visits to see other managers’ problem solving.
Despite being heavily indebted to its American context, this work provides considerable encouragement and guidance for adapting libraries to suit a range of users often ignored or considered impossible.
An informative and encouraging look at a side of information provision that is often neglected. No longer need it be in the “too hard” basket.