University library (dis)building strategies for the inclusion of users with special needs

Isabel Cristina dos Santos Diniz, doutoranda em Multimédia em Educação pela Universidade de Aveiro, Portugal, Department of Library Science in Universidade Federal do Maranhão, São Luís, MA, Brazil

Cassia Furtado, Department of Library Science in Universidade Federal do Maranhão, Interdisciplinary Research Center on Reading, Communication and Design of Hypermedia – LEDMID/CNPq, São Luís, MA,  Brazil

Ana Margarida Almeida, Universidade de Aveiro, Department of Communication and Art/DigiMedia, Portugal

Researchers from the Federal University of Maranhão, Brazil, and the University of Aveiro, Portugal, recently published a study in the Transinformação journal (Vol. 31) under the title “University libraries: the role of an accessible campus on the inclusion of users with special needs” to present the preliminary results of an ongoing research that seeks to diagnose inclusive practices in Brazilian and Portuguese university libraries, particularly regarding the role of an accessible campus in the inclusion of users with special needs. This research is innovative in the face of the scarce scientific literature on research that shows the contributions of the Brazilian and Portuguese university libraries to the entry, permanence and conclusion of the academic paths of students with special educational needs.

The access of people with special needs to higher education imposed a paradigm shift on university libraries, reaching different levels such as the generation and use of information to research activities carried out in higher education institutions (BILA, 2014).

The implementation of the processes of recognition and evaluation of undergraduate and postgraduate courses have, on the other hand, led universities to rethink their role, strengthening the need to plan, establish objectives and goals and measure their results (BEM et al., 2016). With this, university libraries have begun to feel the importance of planning and evaluating the activities they carry out, especially those aimed at people with special needs, because the intended results form the rational basis for their existence.

The environment of any space, as well as a library, has a huge impact on the experience and extent of a person’s disability (BEM et al., 2016). Inaccessible environments create barriers to participation and inclusion in different scenarios such as the ones in which a deaf user cannot have access to sign language interpreters, or a wheelchair user in a library building without accessible bathrooms or lifts, or a blind user that uses a library computer without a screen reading software.

The university library environment can and should be changed to improve health, prevent or mitigate disabilities, and improve the quality of life for people with special needs. The changes can be implemented by complying with legislation and public policies in order to develop inclusive approaches supported on the use digital based solutions namely regarding: accessibility of the building and of the public urban transports that allow people with physical handicaps or reduced mobility to reach the library; signaling on accessible conditions (namely using the international access symbol); provision of accessible collections compatible with ATs (Accessible Search Tools, head and mouth tips, reading boards with magnifying glass, autonomous readers, braille displays, audio books, among others) (DINIZ; ALMEIDA; FURTADO, 2015).

The adoption of inclusive practices in university libraries requires profound changes in the mindset of their librarians and in the structure of these institutions. During this process, libraries and their librarians often face great difficulties and dilemmas, which trigger deep reflections and the implementation of diverse adjustments and corrections (DINIZ; ALMEIDA; FURTADO, 2015).

In this context, the article evidences an innovative research in the face of the scarce scientific literature on investigations that show the contributions of the Brazilian and Portuguese university libraries to the entrance, permanence and conclusion of the academic paths of students with special educational needs.

The quantitative research was performed through an online questionnaire applied to 87 library directors (54 Brazilian and 33 Portuguese). Fifty valid answers were collected (28 Brazilian and 22 Portuguese). Based on these results, the authors identified accessibility problems, namely regarding campus access and the lack of library teams with specific skills to assist these users. The authors conclude that many of these libraries are integrated in campuses without no accessible infrastructure, and therefore are not able to promote the inclusion of the students with special needs. Respondents say they are aware of their limitations and weaknesses when facing this challenge and show openness to change their practices and attitudes toward a new future scenario in which they could build solutions to improve the accessibility and inclusion in these libraries.

The research was supported by the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa e ao Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico do Maranhão (FAPEMA), Processo nº BD-02885/15.

References

BILA, A. S. A. Biblioteca de arte inclusiva: informação e conhecimento acessíveis aos leitores com deficiência visual. 2014. 86 f. Relatório (Mestrado em Ciência da Informação e Educação) – Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Lisboa, 2014. Available from: http://hdl.handle.net/10362/14767

BEM, R. M. et al. Avaliação de bibliotecas universitárias: normas e padrões. Pesquisa Brasileira em Ciência da Informação e Biblioteconomia, v. 11, n. 1, p. 100-116, 2016. ISSN: ISSN: 1981-0695 [viewed 10 April 2019]. Available from: http://www.periodicos.ufpb.br/ojs/index.php/pbcib/article/view/27918

DINIZ, I. C. S., ALMEIDA, A. M. and FURTADO, C.  Acessibilidade e produtos de apoio nas bibliotecas universitárias brasileiras e portuguesas: ações e estratégias. In: GOMES, M. J., OSÓRIO, A. J. and VALENTE, L. (Ed.).  Conferência Internacional de TIC na Educação 2015: meio século de TIC na Educação, 9., 2015. p.958-962, Braga, Portugal. Anais […] Braga: 2015. Available from: http://repositorium.sdum.uminho.pt/handle/1822/55388

To read the article, access

DINIZ, I. C. S., ALMEIDA, A. M. and FURTADO, C. C. Bibliotecas universitárias: o papel de um campus acessível na inclusão de usuários com necessidades especiais. Transinformação, v. 31, e180029, 2019. ISSN: 0103-3786 [viewed 10 April 2019]. DOI: 10.1590/2318-0889201931e180029. Available from: http://ref.scielo.org/zc36br

External link

Transinformação – TINF: www.scielo.br/tinf

 

How to cite this post [ISO 690/2010]:

DINIZ, I. C. S., ALMEIDA, A. M. and FURTADO, C. C. University library (dis)building strategies for the inclusion of users with special needs [online]. SciELO in Perspective: Humanities, 2019 [viewed ]. Available from: http://humanas.blog.scielo.org/en/2019/04/11/university-library-disbuilding-strategies-for-the-inclusion-of-users-with-special-needs/

 

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