patrons gain access through the cloud...

By Michael Kelley

An innovative project is under way that may help librarians who struggle to provide and understand the assistive technologies that disabled patrons are entitled to by law.

The Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure (GPII) would, essentially, move everything to the cloud.

Right now, the burden lies on a disabled person to figure out his own needs-and to fulfill those requirements on an office computer, home computer, school computer, or library computer.

“Whether it’s a computer, or a smartphone, the burden is also on the individual library to figure out how to meet what often are vague legal requirements,” said Jane Berliss-Vincent, a computer access specialist for the Center for Accessible Technology in Berkeley, CA, who presented the project Saturday at ALA’s annual conference in New Orleans. “The burden is also on the individual library to figure out how best to meet what can often be vague legal requirements, to figure out what assistive technology to purchase that would best fit the needs of the largest number of patrons, and to do this within a tight budget and extremely limited staff time.”

GPII is a software and service enhancement to our broadband infrastructure that allows users to use the access features they need anywhere, anytime, on any device-and the hope is it will help disabled patrons, said Berliss-Vincent.

“What if instead the burden was on the technology itself? What if someone were able to set up their assistive technology preferences once, and then be able to go to any piece of equipment, type in a code number and have their technology with their preferences already in place automatically and efficiently come up. The good news is that this is under way,” she added.

GPII, which began development about a year ago, would use the cloud to create a secure personalized interface for each patron (a one-time only, Wizard guided process). Accessibility software and information about a patron’s devices would be a part of that profile. This would allow any person to access assistive technologies and extended-usability features on any device connected to the Internet.

“It provides accessibility where, when, and how it’s needed,” Berliss-Vincent said. “GPII will take the right user profile and features, check the device, and guide the device to meet the users need. You pick up any device anywhere, and it would adapt to you.”

The project, which has a five-year timeline, has about $4 million in funding from a variety of U.S., Canadian, and European Union sources, and there’s a request for $10 million before Congress for FY12. It’s the brainchild Geneva-based international consortium, Raising the Floor, which is comprised of a wide range of assistive technology consumers, developers, researchers, and manufacturers. Raising the Floor is funded through a U.S. Department of Education grant and the Adobe Foundation.

“A lot of powerful minds in the assistive technology field have come up with this,” Berliss-Vincent said. “The hope is that GPII will be recognized as “an acceptable level of compliance for legal purposes,” which would reduce some of the burdens on librarians, although a library could choose to get more involved, like for example, becoming the place where patrons would go to create their profiles.

“It’s a new approach to accessibility that meshes with your professional and organizational culture,” she said. “It’s a way to serve more people on any of your technologies.”

The group is inviting feedback and ideas on its website from the librarian community as part of its development stage.

“The faster they bring it on, the better,” said Elizabeth Ridler, Brooklyn Public Library’s manager of library services, who attended the presentation.



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