Technology for Library Users with Disabilities

There are many exciting ways in which technology is empowering some people who have disabilities. At its best, technology can help people communicate more effectively and function more independently. It can improve quality of life. Many libraries are finding ways to facilitate adoption of technology for library patrons who have disabilities. Other libraries are working to find ways to add to the assistive technology at the library.

Technology's Potential

First, let’s take a look at a couple of examples of technology empowering people with disabilities. The iPad, for example, has been embraced by many people with disabilities. Here are a couple of stories that demonstrate the potential (thanks to Heather Braum for sharing these with us).

Virginia Campbell

Glaucoma had made it difficult for this 99 year old to engage in her favorite pastimes: reading and writing. However, her iPad changed everything. She’s now reading books on the iPad (thanks to its ability to increase the size of text).  She also increases the brightness on the display to improve her reading experience. She is now writing poetry on the tablet, too! Learn more about Virginia with this news article and this video.

Owen Cain

This 7 year old with a debilitating motor-neuron disease struggles to make even minor movements. Thanks to his iPad, however, he’s reading books on his own for the first time (and is playing Air Guitar, too).Learn more about Owen with this news article and this video

Libraries and Technology for People with Disabilities

What are libraries doing to help empower people with disabilities? For one example, join us on March 26th, when Holly Jin from the Skokie (IL) Public Library will discuss her library’s successful "Come On In" project. Come On In! offers specialized services, programs, and resources for families and encourages children with special needs. Participants in our free webinar will hear about free and inexpensive tools. Attendees will also be encouraged to think about ways to partner with other organizations to meet patron and staff needs. You can register online.

We’d love to hear about the ways in which you and your library are using technology to make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities. Please share examples in the comments on this blog post or email us at techsoupforlibraries (at)

Edge Benchmarks and Technology for Library Users with Disabilities

TechSoup for Libraries is one of a coalition of organizations working together to solicit input from libraries around the country and develop benchmarks to help library staff understand best practices in public access technology services. The eleven benchmarks help libraries identify the practices, policies, equipment, and staffing they need to have in place to provide robust computer and Internet services to their patrons. Library Edge Benchmark 11 covers assistive technology and states: Libraries ensure participation in digital technology for people with disabilities. It includes the following indicators:

11.1. The library accommodates users with disabilities.

  • At least one public terminal with equipment or programs that enable use by the visually impaired (e.g., screen readers, magnification, high contrast keyboards and displays) is available at all outlets
  • At least one public terminal that can be converted with equipment or programs to facilitate usage by people with motor and dexterity impairments (e.g., touch screens, trackballs, switches, voice-recognition software) is available at all outlets
  • The library has at least one workstation in each outlet that can accommodate a wheelchair or mobility vehicle
  • The library website is compliant with World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) disability standards
  • Specific accessibility goals are included in the strategic plan
  • Staff are provided with training at least annually for recognizing and serving patrons with disabilities

Again, we would love to hear what your library is doing in this area! Share examples in the comments on this blog post or email us at techsoupforlibraries (at)