Information Access for seniors and people with disabilities

The American Library Association has declared July 16  to be information access day.  As I limp along in the slow lane of the information superhighway, posting my second blog and  downloading more podcasts than I’ll ever get to, I glory in what’s out there nowadays in accessible information for blind people.  Newsline provides access to hundreds of newspapers and magazines, although not my local paper.  NLS and Bookshare provide as many books as would be available in a small town’s public library.

            But as is usual, the glass is half full and half empty.   A friend told me about attending a public lecture with extended family including two deaf adults.  Nothing in the publicity or on the website told how to request an interpreter.  So some of the family including the deaf folks sat in the back and the hearing texted key phrases from the talk to the deaf.  The usual provisos about turn off your cell phones were in the program.  Unfortunately the speaker announced that even if you were sitting in the back, please turn them off, it was distracting.  So they did and the deaf family members didn’t get much out of the program. 

            Two weeks into federally mandated provision of a few hours a week of described television programming, not much is happening.  Even folks who live in the top 25 markets and where the network says the program is described are only occasionally reporting they can watch and get description.  The cable companies are saying it must be your equipment, or the network or somebody else. 

            Everyday things like going to a program with the rest of your family or watching television are not easy.  Even with laws, technology and people of good will, we’re lucky if it happens.  People just joining the disability club as they age have a hard time understanding this.  Yes access should be there, but often it just isn’t.  So I email asking how to get access, follow up when I don’t hear back and enjoy what is there.  Like the link a friend sent me to a business selling funny signs (which I adore reading) and can read online.