Institute on Disabilities at Temple University Launches Program for People with Visual Impairment

June 30, 2011

A new program of the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University, College of Education, will bring specialized equipment for people with visual impairment to locations across Pennsylvania.

Funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and funds from the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation's Independent Living Older Blind Program, and in partnership with the Office of Commonwealth Libraries, the "Get REAL-Regional Education Assisting Life Long Learning" project will deliver magnification and computer equipment to select libraries and bookmobiles throughout the Commonwealth. These assistive technology devices are designed to make reading easier for people with visual impairment. Libraries will receive equipment including video magnifiers (also known as closed circuit TVs [CCTV]), computers with specialized hardware such as high contrast keyboards, and software such as "text-to-speech" screen reading programs. Bookmobiles will receive portable video magnifiers. Institute staff will also support libraries in becoming "friendly" to individuals with disabilities, especially vision disabilities, in all of their activities.

Amy Goldman, Associate Director of the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University says that the equipment is needed to help ensure the full inclusion of all people, especially those with disabilities. "According to 2009 statistics, 15% of Pennsylvania's urban population was aged 65 or older." Ms. Goldman says. "In rural areas, the number is even higher-17%. Since it is this population that is most affected by vision loss, it is imperative that public spaces, such as libraries, be fully accessible."Goldman added, "as more and more of our lives are influenced by information ‘on line,' the ability to fully use the free internet resources of our public libraries is increasingly important."

As part of the "Get REAL" project, the staff at participating library and bookmobile locations will be trained on the equipment. Pennsylvanians will be able to find the select libraries and bookmobiles by checking the Institute on Disabilities website where an up-to-date listing of the facilities and their equipment will be maintained. Also on the site will be descriptions of the assistive technology and specialized software as well as links to the manufacturers and other related resources. All equipment is scheduled for installation by September 30, 2011.

The Get REAL project will collaborate with community resources throughout the Commonwealth, including the Pennsylvania Association for the Blind, to encourage ongoing support to individuals who are blind or partially sighted.

For more information about the project, go to the website of the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University: www.disabilities.temple.edu/ or call project coordinator Jamie A. Prioli, ATP at Jamie.Prioli@temple.edu or 215-204-5974 (voice), 866-268-0579 (TTY).