Library DrawingThe CONNector

January 2001Volume 3 Number 1

Technology for the Visually Impaired at the Connecticut State Library

Mel E. Smith, Librarian II, History & Genealogy Unit

Optelec 500 ClearView machine
Optelec 500 ClearView machine

As the Connecticut State Library moves into the 21st century, technology plays a major role in how we serve the public. It is readily apparent that automated on-line catalogs, and databases, along with internet access, enhance the researchers ability to find and use information. However, these sources may still be restrictive to individuals in the impaired vision community.

During the last couple of years, The Connecticut State Library has obtained various types of technological tools, which should help the visually impaired patron make better use of our library resources. Two such devices are the subject of this short commentary, EasyType keyboards and the Optelec Clearview machine.

How often have we as librarians been faced with a patron who is apprehensive about using a computer, or the CONSULS terminal to find information? In many of these cases it seems that the patron is just not confident about using the computer keyboard. The letters may seem too small for some of our mature and visually impaired patrons, not to mention staff members. EasyType keyboards, which are located at designated terminals throughout the three reference units, greatly aid such patrons. EasyType keyboards have bold oversize lettering on the keys which makes it easier for patrons and staff to use. The EasyType keyboards also have multi-colored command keys, such as the Enter, Shift and Backspace commands, to aid the patron to differentiate among these command key and the other keys. The EasyType keyboards certainly have proved to be a useful tool in providing better access to our computer and CONSULS terminals for our patrons.

The Optelec 500 ClearView machine, which is located in the History and Genealogy reading room, is a great advance in enlarging textual images for patrons. This machine uses a 17-inch color monitor to magnify the size of printed material from 5.2 to 52 times its original size. The monitor is mounted over a movable reading table where the patron places the desired reading material. The patron then moves the reading table back and forth to view the image on the monitor, not unlike using a microfiche machine. The Optelec 500 ClearView comes equipped with one touch zoom, instant focus and image brightness features. More advanced features include color selection. A patron, with a push of a button, can change the text and background color of the image. Whether it is a History of the City of Hartford, or the fine print of the telephone book, patrons with limited vision can easily use this machine to access the information that they need.

The Connecticut State Library staff is constantly striving to meet the needs of our patrons. Progress in meeting this goal continues with equipment such as EasyType keyboards and Optelec 500 ClearView machines.

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