Library services' provision for people with visual impairments and in wheelchairs in academic libraries in Tanzania.
This study examined library services’ provision for people with visual impairments and in wheelchairs in academic libraries in Tanzania. It looked into access to the information resources available and the layout of library buildings in five universities. The universities studied were University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), Open University of Tanzania (OUT), Dar es Salaam University College of Education (DUCE), Sebastian Kolowa Memorial University (SEKOMU) and St. John’s University of Tanzania (SJUT). The broader issues in this study were drawn from issues relating to the importance of access to information as a fundamental human right. The main research question the study sought to answer was what services do academic libraries provide for people with visual impairments and in wheelchairs? Specific subsidiary research questions were what is the physical layout of academic libraries in Tanzania? what information resources are provided by academic libraries for people with visual impairments ? what are the challenges facing people with visual impairments and in wheelchairs in accessing and using library services? what is the role of information and communication technology (ICT) in facilitating provision of information resources to people with visual impairment and in wheelchairs? and what challenges are experienced by the library in seeking to provide services to people with visual impairments and in wheelchairs? The study was guided by the social model of disability of Oliver and used the International Classification of Functioning (ICF) framework to address the research problem in the context of the academic library. The pragmatism paradigm was employed in the study. Both quantitative and qualitative methods were used. Regarding the respondents 113, (of a population of 139) were surveyed by questionnaire and 57 of 67 were interviewed. The population of the study involved library directors, professional library staff, disability unit staff, and people with visual impairments and in wheelchairs. Snowball sampling was used to identify the people with visual impairments and in wheelchairs. In order to obtain good measures of validity and reliability three data collection methods were employed: questionnaires, interview schedules and an observation checklist. The overall response rate from the questionnaires was 81%. Data gathered through the questionnaires were analyzed using descriptive statistics facilitated by SPSS and data gathered through interviews were analyzed using thematic analysis. The research conformed to the research ethics policy of University of KwaZulu-Natal. Access to information is a fundamental right of every human being and academic libraries exist to support learning, teaching, research and consultancy to all in a university’s community of users, including people with visual impairments and in wheelchairs The study confirmed that academic libraries in Tanzania provide services to people with visual impairments and in wheelchairs which are not inclusive or universal. The study put forward a new non-recursive interactive model for application and testing. It offered guidelines for academic libraries in providing inclusive and universal services to people with visual impairments and in wheelchairs For academic libraries to provide services which are inclusive and universal, the layout of library buildings need to include working lifts and ramps for people with visual impairments and in wheelchairs so that they can easily access the information resources housed in the library. In addition, information resources which are in Braille and large print are required for people with visual impairments to read easily as well as assistive equipment to help them read the information resources available. Furthermore, having staff trained and experienced in special needs requires university programmes and curricula to include components, at all levels of qualification, on special needs for people with disabilities. Positive attitudes to both library staff and people with visual impairments and in wheelchairs are needed to allow access and use of information resources. In addition policy addressing library services for people with disabilities is important for the library, to not only guide the provision of universal services, but also to ensure adequate allocation of funds to support library services to people with visual impairments and in wheelchairs.
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