A look at access and availability of alternative format by visually impaired adults and students in Nigeria

Hello all! This is an article I found for one class this semester where it somehow seems applicable to every class I’m taking.  I thought it would be worth documenting, and throwing out there that if anyone else finds any interesting resources on alternative formats in libraries in developing countries, please send it my way!

Adetoro, N. n. (2012). A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF AVAILABILITY AND ACCESS TO ALTERNATIVE FORMAT BY VISUALLY IMPAIRED ADULTS AND STUDENTS IN NIGERIA. African Research & Documentation, (119), 15-25.

This 2012 article addresses the issue of the lack of reading materials available for people (with a specific focus on secondary school students) not only in Nigeria, but around the world.  Adetoro is sure to make the distinction that this study focuses on the availability of and access to (which are very much too different things) reading materials in Nigerian libraries.  In the U.K. alone, 95% of visually impaired library users are turned away because alternative formats are not available.  Many NGO’s provide resources, and many groups have taken an interest in this subject, but they are fragmented.

Several problems arise when dealing with this issue. Adetoro attributes one to librarians who, in the past, had no training in working with visually impaired visitors.  There arose a barrier between the user and staff, which has created the long term problem of visually impaired users feeling like a burden.  This problem starts before the issue of availability even begins.  The visitors seeking alternative formats may not even try in the first place because of assumptions dealing with a library’s lack of knowledge and resources.  Another problem is that libraries can be averted from requesting alternative materials because of fear of them going unused or unwanted.  People with visual impairments are encouraged to speak up and be specific about which materials they would want and use.

8 libraries for adults and 6 secondary school libraries were studied.  Statistics show that the adults and the students questioned thought there was an availability to Braille resources, while that availability to large-print books and books on tape did not have that same availability.  The survey made the distinction between “readily available”, “available”, “not readily available”, and “not available”, which I still have questions about.  Perhaps further research into this topic can give me more answers. Discussion of this study raised many possible answers.  Braille is by far the most available resource for visually impaired users in these particular libraries.  Why are the others not so available? Adetoro mentions the possibility of reasons outside of library control, including out of date technology and lack of funding.

How do we solve this?  Adetoro thinks solutions include “co-operative strategies…and collaboratiosn with NGO’s and corporate bodies to widen and increase their resource base” (2012).  He also calls on the Nigerian government to make more of an effort to invest in public libraries overall, and to provide resources for ALL of their patrons, and more training for their librarians.

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