Libraries have traditionally been associated with printed books. After all, the word “library” is derived from the Latin librarius, “of books” and liber, “book.” However, patrons who are blind or visually impaired are unable to pick up and read a book. Some libraries offer a selection of books in braille. A greater number have a selection of recorded books that many patrons long on literary interest but short on time have been able to borrow. Then, with the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990–covered in an earlier piece in this space—there has been a considerable increase in public awareness of accessibility for people with disabilities. The recorded books have long been considered a form of assistive technology, with Learning Ally in Princeton, NJ, a pioneer in the field of books for the blind and people with learning disabilities such as dyslexia. (One of our consumers, Brian M., is a notable success story.) Enter the Library Equal Access Program (LEAP).
LEAP is a project of the Commission of the Blind and Visually Impaired (CBVI), a division of the New Jersey Department of Human Services (DHS). (DHS is the state department that oversees the Division of Developmental Disabilities, which serves adults over age 21 who have intellectual and developmental disabilities.) LEAP provides free training in speech and magnification assistive technology to library patrons age 55 and older. At this time, LEAP is available at the following New Jersey libraries:
- Atlantic City Free Public Library
- Atlantic County Library, Mays Landing branch
- Cherry Hill Public Library
- East Brunswick Public Library
- Johnson Public Library, Hackensack
- Ocean County Library, Toms River
- South Orange Public Library.
LEAP is sponsored by CBVI, in collaboration with Advancing Opportunities, and the New Jersey State Library. Persons interested in registering for this valuable service should contact Advancing Opportunities Assistive Technology Services, at 1-888-322-1918, extension 595.