According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 54.4 million Americans —18.7 percent of the population — have a disability, and due to an aging population, the number of individuals with a disability is expected to grow exponentially. In addition to representing a significant portion of the library community, the American Library Association (ALA) recognizes that people with disabilities are a large and often neglected part of society. “The library plays a catalytic role in their lives by facilitating their full participation in society.”
ALA’s Association of Specialized Government and Cooperative Library Agencies offer resources on assistive/adaptive technologies. Assistive technologies are electronic solutions that enable people with disabilities to live independently. People with blindness can hear computer-screen text, and people with visual impairments can enlarge text, enabling independent reading. People who are unable to manipulate a mouse can enter data, and those who cannot physically hear a computer prompt can view prompts. There is also computer software that helps persons with learning differences see and hear the information displayed on the screen.
To ensure access, libraries may provide individuals with disabilities services such as extended loan periods, waived late fines, extended reserve periods, library cards for proxies, books by mail, reference services by fax or email, home delivery service, remote access to the online public access catalog and other library resources, volunteer readers and technology assistants in the library, American Sign Language interpreter or real-time captioning at library programs, and radio reading services.