The Regional Library in St Pierre has recently received a grant to purchase Accessible Technology with the purpose of being able to lend it out to the public, in particular, to support individuals with print disabilities.
Nicole Gregoire, head librarian and administrator in St Pierre-Jolys says they applied for a grant through the Manitoba Accessibility Fund.
“We put in a proposal to develop a program and services to enhance the accessibility services of those with perception disabilities in our area because prior to that point, we did not have any lendable technology.”
Gregoire describes the specific disability they are helping.
“A perceptual disability is commonly known as a print disability and there are three different types of print disabilities. The first would be learning, so that's an impairment relating to comprehension. People with dyslexia would have, for example, a learning print disability. Physical would be the inability to hold or to manipulate a book, so, people with arthritis oftentimes the books are too heavy or they can't manipulate the pages, and visual would be severe total impairment of sight, so in that case it would be for people with vascular degeneration, cataracts, blindness, some sort of vision loss.”
Right now, Gregoire says they’ve had access to NNELS, which is the National Network of Equitable Library Services, for several years now. More recently the province of Manitoba announced that they were also going to support CELA, the Centre for Equitable Library Access. These are two non-profit organizations established by Canadian Public Libraries, to serve people with apparent disabilities.
“It's really wonderful that the province has supported these organizations so that all of Manitoba public libraries can access these resources for their communities, which is wonderful because for a person with a print disability, it could be quite expensive to get alternative formats, and that's what these two organizations do.”
Gregoire says access to more technologies that will aid the residents living in St Pierre and surrounding areas is a big reason they have used the grant money to purchase Victor Readers and Yoto Players. She says someone with a print disability does not always have access to literature that they can read.
“We actually have individuals ranging from young children all the way to the senior citizens in our community. A lot of people want to be able to read, but because of their print disabilities, it's a barrier for them and so, up until recently, before we purchased these devices, E-libraries were often a #1 recommendation because people could adjust the fonts, not only the size of the font but also the readability of the fonts. So these E-libraries have a specific font, it's called open-dyslexic font. We also have large print books, so a lot of people check out the large prints, and if we don't have a large print in the library, we could access it through the provincial inter-library loan program. So yeah, there is a need in the community. I think we've been able to serve that demographic in our communities, but this is now going to be enhanced as we're going to be able to really give them what they want.”
Gregoire reiterates, “accessibility is all about removing barriers. And so that's what we're doing. We're removing some of those barriers, whether it be a financial barrier because they cannot afford to purchase the assistive technology because the assistive technology is pretty expensive. But we (at the library) are also trained to be able to find the information or the books that they want and we could easily download all those books for them, preload the devices, and then off the patron goes with their books.”
Gregoire notes with the grant money they were able to purchase 3 Yoto Players, 2 iPads, and 4 Victor Players.
When it comes to lending out these devices she says, “There's a limit on the time frame that they can borrow the devices. And again, that's because we want people to have the chance to use the service, right? We would like anybody who wants to use these devices to have the opportunity to use them in a timely manner.”
The Regional Library in St Pierre has been in the same building for about 50 years and their collection is for the public as well as the students with a library membership card.
Gregoire notes they will be holding two community presentations that are open to the public, where they will explain the newly accessible technology now part of their lending services and answer any questions individuals might have.
The first presentation will be on April 12 at 10am at Chalet Malouin in St. Malo and then at Manoir in St. Pierre on April 28 at 1:30pm.