Confession- I haven’t checked out a physical copy of a book from a library since I was in middle school. Even though I can’t access information in standard print sizes and therefore can’t read traditional printed books, I’ve still used several resources offered by my college library as a student with low vision, and often tell my friends about all of the cool resources available at the library free of charge. Here are some examples of services offered by college libraries that can be used by students with low vision and print disabilities, many of which are available for all students.
While my college has a dedicated testing center for students with disabilities in another building, there are still computers that can be used for testing. These are available for students without disabilities, though if there is an issue with the testing center and student does not require any elaborate accommodations, they can take an exam on one of these computers using a remote proctoring software.
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Even at the smallest campus library, there are CCTVs and computers that have accessibility settings enabled. These computers often contain magnification software, screen readers, adapted keyboards, and similar. I’ve also seen computers that have switches enabled for people with physical disabilities at another library.
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Our library has lots of great equipment that students are able to rent. Laptops are usually the most common to rent, but students (of all majors) can also rent cameras, video recorders, sound equipment, and even projectors. I’ve checked out laptops that had a different operating system than the one I normally use for various projects, as well as fast loading scanners that could be used in the computer lab.
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One of my favorite recording studios in the library is super easy to use. Just plug in a flash drive, push a button, and then you’re recording a video that is downloaded to the flash drive. This has been incredibly helpful for people who need to do a simple video with no editing for a class, and can also be used by blind students with no or low amounts of assistance. Other recording studios are also available for students to use their own (or borrowed) equipment, as well as create audio recordings.
Unable to leave your dorm room and need to access a specific piece of software for a class? Several schools offer remote desktop solutions so that students can work from their own computers, with their own accessibility settings. Some software may require advanced reservations, but I’ve always been able to log on immediately. I have tried this on my Windows 10 laptop and desktop computer with great success. My iPad has mixed results, as sometimes text runs off the screen.
I have been surprised to find many books and scholarly papers available digitally that I could immediately access. This is true no matter what device I am on. There are a lot of digital items that students can check out and cite. This has helped me with many research papers. I found these materials by searching the library catalog and then filtering it by selecting “digital materials.”
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My college supports an application called BrowZine. This allows students and staff to search scholarly journals written by people at the university. They can also browse some magazines. Some professors require students to cite at least one article from these types of databases. Being able to enlarge these articles on my iPad makes it easy to find articles to use.
While I haven’t done this, one of my friends had a creative way of dealing with a sudden migraine attack that came on in the middle of the library.
Since there weren’t many people around at the time, they rented a study room. This was closed off to the rest of the library and free of light and sound. They went in there to lie down until their roommate could come get them. This is against library policy, however because the roommate was arriving in less than ten minutes and no one else was waiting for the room, library staff allowed it.
I’m including this story not only because my friend suggested I do. This was one of the most interesting solutions I have ever heard of for dealing with sudden migraines. It also reminded me of how the library can be a safe space for people with disabilities. These study rooms can be great for students who need a modified studying environment, or that feel a migraine coming on and need to be in an environment that will not further trigger migraines.
My college has databases for nearly every major. They are filled with software, scholarly articles, videos, ebooks, web resources, and so much more. These are separate from the traditional library catalog. I found I was able to access all of the databases regardless of my major. I was able to find resources for assistive technology across several different subjects.
For students that have trouble using certain software, the library frequently offers workshops on popular software, and students can request workshops as well for groups of three or more. I attended a workshop on a software I had to use for creating a digital research library, and was able to get all of my questions answered.
Other resources for college libraries and low vision
- Streaming video applications such as Kanopy can provide students with access to documentaries and a variety of other video content. Watching Free Documentaries With Kanopy
- Makerspaces that have 3D printers, sewing machines, and other tools for creative projects
- Tech support/open office hours for troubleshooting mainstream technology devices
- Author talks and events, many of which can be streamed online