Adaptive Equipment Technology For Supporting Handicapped Persons In The Library Environment

Project and Seminar Material for Library and Information Science

Adaptive Equipment Technology For Supporting Handicapped Persons In The Library Environment


Abstract


This study investigates adaptive equipment technology for supporting handicapped persons in the library environment in southeast, Nigeria. The study tested five null hypotheses at 0.05 level of significance. A descriptive survey design was adopted for the research. The populations of the study were all the identified students with mobility, hearing and visual impairments and the professional librarians who were the service providers in the polytechnic libraries. The total number of professional librarians was 94 and that of the physically challenged students was 1984 from where a sample of 279 was taken. The whole professional librarians were used because the population was small. The researcher also used Focus Group Discussion (FGD) for data collection. Three separate groups of physically challenged students (mobility, visual, and hearing impaired) per institution were used for the FGD. Two sets of questionnaire for the librarians (AULRSQL) and physically challenged students (AULRSQPCS) were developed and validated alongside with the other instrument by 3 experts from University of Nigeria, Nsukka. They were trial tested using 15 librarians and 7 identified visual, 5 hearing and 8 mobility-impaired students from two polytechnics in south-south Nigeria. The reliability co- efficient of AULRSQL and AULRQPCS are 0.668 and 0.778 respectively indicating a high degree of internal consistency. They were obtained by using Cronbatch Alpha reliability method. The instruments were administered directly to the librarians, all the identified hearing and visually impaired students and to 10% of the mobility impaired students selected using proportionately stratified random sampling technique. However, 82 sets of the questionnaire for the librarians were returned in usable form, while 164 of the mobility impaired, 34 of the hearing impaired and 38 of the visually impaired were returned in useable form. The data from the AULRSQL and AULRSQPCS were analyzed using frequency tables, percentages, means and standard deviations. The real limit of numbers (means range) of the nominal value assigned to the scale point was used and decision was taken by comparing results with the real limit of numbers. ANOVA was used for testing the formulated hypotheses. Major findings include that general library materials are available (though some are outdated), paucity of specialized library resources for the mobility, hearing and visual impaired students, general lack of support resources in the library and a high extent of use of available resources and services. Problems of availability and utilization of library resources and services and the strategies to curb them were also identified. Recommendations, made include that more current general library materials be provided in polytechnic libraries, specialized resources and facilities for the 3 groups of physically challenged students be provided, and that officers in charge of physically challenged students be provided immediately.


Chapter One


Introduction

Background of the Study

Availability and use of information are fundamental human right issues as contained in articles 19 and 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) of 10th December 1948. In this information age, there is the need, now more than ever, to equip people with skill and means to become information literate and to enable them locate, access and evaluate information without discrimination. This is in line with the major objectives of inclusive education, equality of education, education for all and library and information service for all, which are all enshrined in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and National Policy on Education of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The knowledge society also demands that all citizens, including the physically challenged, should have access to full information. This is the basis for enabling people, especially the physically challenged, to participate as active citizens since they need to make informed choices and decisions and to act on them. Availability and use of relevant, accurate and current library resources and services by the physically challenged are veritable means of developing human resources and accentuating sustainable self-reliance and national development.

Disabilities are many including visual, hearing, mobility, cognitive and language, and speech disabilities. The ones covered in this work, which were selected because according to Quality Assurance Agency (2010) they are more prevalent in regular tertiary institutions, are physical and mobility impairment, visual impairment (total blindness) and hearing impairment (deaf and dumb). Physical and mobility impairment include crippling disabilities,wheel chair bound, students with crutches, amputees, students with artificial hand(s) and or leg(s) and dwarfs. The problems they encounter in the library include navigating through the library and its environment, picking books from the shelves, using other general facilities that may be designed for the able-bodied ones. The hearing impaired on their own part cannot recognise spoken words. Their characteristics include lack of response to spoken words, indifference to sounds and noise. The visually impaired on their part have visual disabilities in reading coupled with general navigation problems. Visually impaired persons may need someone to read for them. They may also have difficulty in coping with reading small print materials, especially, if impairment is partial. This category of people cannot read the conventional print materials. They need to be provided with reading materials in alternative formats, which they can read at their own, pace and time. Library services for this category of physically challenged persons require extensive resources and well-trained staff. Visually impaired persons may depend on Braille books, talking books, sonic guide, mowart sensor etc for reading and movement around the library since movement may also pose serious challenges.

Physically challenged persons constitute an important proportion of the general population. With the increasing life expectancy in most parts of the world and the dramatic pace of urbanization in some African countries, including Nigeria (particularly South-East Nigeria) the population of physically challenged persons is increasing concomitantly. Today, a great number of persons with disabilities are trying to acquire tertiary education in institutions of higher learning including polytechnics.

Polytechnics are institutions of higher education, which offer undergraduate and postgraduate courses and may take up some sponsored research (McCartney, 1990). The polytechnic is therefore any institution of higher learning offering a variety of scientific, technological and business diploma programmes at the National Diploma and Higher National Diploma levels. The core objectives of polytechnics as provided in National Policy on Education of Federal Government of Nigeria (2004) are to provide full time and part time courses and training in engineering, technology, applied science, commerce, management, natural science and agricultural distribution leading to the production of trained manpower. These courses provide the technical knowledge and skills necessary for agricultural, industrial, commercial and economic development of Nigeria, and training to impact the necessary skills for production of technicians, technologists and other skilled personnel who shall be enterprising and self reliant.

The establishment of this sector of higher education in Nigeria was necessitated by the realization of the urgent need for indigenous technical and middle level manpower for speedy technological and industrial take-off in the country. It is against the need expressed above that the objectives of polytechnics have been set. These are to provide students opportunity for training and acquisition of techniques in applied science, engineering and commerce as well as in other spheres of learning. This work is focused on polytechnics because; the researcher observed the problem of the study in some polytechnics and also because the available literatures in the area indicate paucity of research reports on physically challenged polytechnic students. Similar studies have been done on the universities, though it was not in the same environment or area of study.

There are eight polytechnics in the Southeast- Nigeria (National Board for Technical Education, 2010). These institutions also train a reasonable number of physically challenged persons. It is understandable that there are reasonable number of students who are physically disabled in the polytechnics and colleges. Echezona, Osadebe and Asogwa-Eze (2009) confirmed this when they stated that in educational institutions today, the number of people who have disability is growing. They observed that the increase in number of persons with disabilities in the regular tertiary institutions arose from the need for mainstreaming personswith disabilities as the era of sending them to rehabilitation centres was not only over and outdated but very ineffective. Echezona et al (2009) pointed out that, generally, the reasons adduced for the increasing number of physically challenged in the society include: increase in population, availability of medical technology which are increasing the chances of survival of infants with disabilities, and health care is becoming more expensive, thereby putting more children at risk during birth. They also said that the major causes of increasing rate of disability in developing countries include malnutrition, communicable diseases and accident, which are responsible for about one-third of all disabilities. Increase in road crash in recent times has led to more accident victims who become physically challenged. The pitiable conditions of major link roads in the southeast make this problem very prevalent. This is also coupled with the menace, recently, caused by increased use of motor cycle popularly called “Okada” as means of transportation in the southeast with the concomitant increase in “Okada” accident victims. In the face of increasing number of disabled persons in institutions of learning including polytechnics, it should be noted that the disability not withstanding, they also need library and information resources and services for their studies.

It is therefore imperative that every educational institution, including polytechnics, should have a functional library manned by a professional librarian. The student or researcher with access to good and functional polytechnic library can learn and be judged on his skill in clarifying a problem, collecting information relative to its solution and coming up with conclusions. Such student or researcher will have acquired the basic foundation for independent learning. All these are true of all polytechnic students, including the physically challenged ones.

Libraries in the polytechnics owe it as a duty to provide special library services to persons with disabilities who like every one else have to be provided with relevant opportunities necessary to make them participate actively and become productive members of the society. Librarians in the polytechnic institutions must be aware of the Nigerians with Disability Decree (NWDD) (1993) which places statutory duties on organizations, including libraries, to make reasonable adjustment in the form of special library services to meet the needs of the disabled people.
Making available and accessible library resources and services for these less privileged people with a view to making them to be better informed and be more useful and productive is necessary if the much envisaged sustainable development is to be realized. Neglecting the physically challenged in the polytechnic community, who constitute an integral part of the students’ population, no matter their number, is tantamount to under utilization and wastage of human resources and under utilization of services. This will be counter productive as it is capable of drawing them back in their bid to contribute to national development through acquiring relevant manpower training needed for self reliance and survival of the individual and the society as contained in the National Policy on Education (Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2004). Aina (1995) and Akinpelu (1998) speculate that physically challenged students in Nigerian tertiary institutions start with the same qualification as other students but encounter barriers to learning, including the utilization of library services and facilities, which result in poor academic achievement.

This study intends to examine the extent of availability and utilization of polytechnic library resources and services by physically challenged students. Availability, in this work, relates to the library resources and services for students with disabilities being physically present in the libraries under study. Accessibility relates to the ability of this user group to reach, see and feel the presence of library resources and services in a cost effective manner. It also implies ability to enter the libraries without facing any physical or environmental barriers. The library resources include information resources and other support resources and facilities in the library that can enhance access and utilization. These library resources include Braille books, talking books, twin-vision books, large print materials, tactile or raised surfaces, talking computer, moon types, CDs/DVDs, laser cane, Sonic guide, Computer Braille, tape recordings etc for the visually impaired. Other ones like height-adjustable catalogues, Online Public Access Catalogues (OPACS), microform projector, close circuit television, computers with adaptive keyboards etc are for the orthopaedic and mobility impaired while induction loop, audiological devices, sign language videos, VCDs/DVD, OPACS, text telephone, etc are for the hearing impaired. This is in addition to other general resources such as journals, microforms, newspapers, government documents, reference materials, and recreational materials etc, which are also needed by them. Other support resources and facilities that can enhance utilization of library resources and services include accessible study tables, study rooms and carrels, directional signposts, ramps, handrails, wheel-chair accessible pathways, automatic doors, street-level entrance, kick-step, etc. The services which should be available include extended loan, waived overdue fine, borrowing by proxy, inter library loan, study rooms, photocopying, online reference services, Selective Dissemination of Information (SDI), Current Awareness Services (CAS), book retrieval, search request assistance, voluntary readers etc.

Utilization will be seen as the possibility to make effective and independent use of the resources and services and by extension, the utilitarian value of the resources and services to intended users. The basic assumption is that there is connectivity between availability and accessibility on one hand and utilization on the other hand. Provision of information is primary, but it does not guarantee its use. Thus library resources may be available, but are not accessible and thus effective utilization will be in vain. Others may be available and accessible but are still not utilized to the advantage of the library user group. Library resources must be available, accessible and utilized by the students with disabilities to meet their reading interests, which are varied. They need information on how to cope with their disabilities in the business of daily lives, educational opportunities, job careers, politics and governance, socio-cultural and bibliotherapy information.

Poor provision and use of information resources and services have a resultant effect on the quality of life of the persons with disabilities and overall societal development. It becomes imperative that provision of the polytechnic library resources and services should reflect established international standards for libraries that are disability- friendly, if they must serve very well all the members of the polytechnic community. It is also worthy of note that international policies and standards for libraries that are disability- friendly have been qualitative rather than quantitative, as shown by the Collection Building Policy of National Library Services for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of Library of Congress (2009), International Federation of Library Association (IFLA) Access to Libraries for Persons with Disabilities Checklist (2005), American Library Association guidelines and standards for library services for people with disabilities (2001) and Australian Library Association Standards for academic libraries serving patrons with disabilities (1998). Thus, the standards do not give the quantity of the resources in measurable terms; rather they are mere enumeration of the resources and facilities to be acquired by libraries that are disability- friendly.


Statement of the Problem

The physically challenged students in polytechnic institution need library and information resources and services like their able-bodied counterparts. These students need to have equal access to library and information resources to meet with their academic work and other information needs. If the physically challenged students in the polytechnic institutions do not have equal access to and use of library and information resources, it will result in poor educational outcomes and general poor quality of life on their part. Provision and effectiveuse of library and information resources and services enhance the rights of the physically challenged to participate equally in societal development.

Information received during the pre-research discussion with some professional colleagues indicates that student population in the polytechnics is becoming more diverse with an increasing number of physically challenged students and that polytechnic libraries do not show enough commitment to providing resources and services that will meet the needs of the students with disabilities. This fact is corroborated by the researcher’s observation that the physically challenged students are not put into consideration in programme planning. Besides, few researches have been carried out on physically challenged and library programme planning in terms of architectural designs, resources and services provision, accessibility and utilization and there is also not much on the information services for physically challenged polytechnic students.

Further pre-research discussions with this important user group and some librarians in the polytechnic system corroborated this. Several authors such as Badawi (1994), Aramide and Bolarinwa (2010) have reported on the availability and use of library resources by students; some other authors like Kaijage (1993), Aina (1996), Onadiran (1998), Atinmo (2000), Eisenman (2005) and Forrest (2005) also have written on the provision of library services for the physically disabled students, though not in polytechnics. These studies did not investigate the availability and utilization of library resources and services by physically challenged students. Again, the researchers did not investigate the level of awareness of polytechnic librarians on the services of physically challenged students. In view of the shortcomings and gaps in the previous studies there is a pressing need to also conduct research on the Adaptive Equipment Technology For Supporting Handicapped Persons In The Library Environment in the southeast, Nigeria which is the focus of this study.


Purpose of the Study

The general purpose of the study is to investigate Adaptive Equipment Technology For Supporting Handicapped Persons In The Library Environment in Southeast Nigeria.

The specific objectives include:

  1. To identify the types of library resources available to the visually, mobility and hearing challenged polytechnic students in Southeast, Nigeria.
  2. To identify the types of library services available to the visually, mobility and hearing challenged polytechnic students in Southeast Nigeria.
  3. To find out the extent of use of library resources by the visually, mobility and hearing challenged polytechnic students in Southeast Nigeria.
  4. To find out the extent of use of library services by the visually, mobility and hearing challenged students in the polytechnics under study.
  5. To determine the level of awareness of polytechnic librarians on the library services for these physically challenged students in the polytechnic under study.

Research Questions

This study will be guided by the following research questions.

  1. What are the types of library resources available to the visually, mobility and hearing challenged polytechnic students in Southeast, Nigeria?
  2. What are the types of library services available to the visually, mobility and hearing challenged polytechnic students in Southeast, Nigeria?
  3. What is the extent of use of library resources by the visually, mobility and hearing challenged polytechnic students in Southeast Nigeria?
  4. What is the extent of use of library services by the mobility, hearing, and visually challenged students in polytechnics under study?
  5. What is the level of awareness of polytechnic librarians on library services for these physically challenged students in the polytechnics under study?

Research Hypotheses

Ho1: There is no significant difference in the mean responses, on the extent of utilization of library resources, by mobility challenged students in the 8 polytechnic libraries under study.

Ho2: There is no significant difference in the mean responses, on the extent of utilization of library resources, by the hearing challenged students in the 8 polytechnic libraries under study.

Ho3: There is no significant difference in the mean responses, on the extent of utilization of library resources, by the visually challenged students in the 8 polytechnic libraries under study.

Ho4: There is no significant difference in the mean responses on the extent of utilization of library services by the mobility challenged polytechnic students in the 8 polytechnic libraries under study.

Ho5: There is no significant difference in the mean responses on the extent of utilization of library services by the visually challenged students in the 8 polytechnic libraries under study.


Significance of the Study

The findings of this study will be significant to the polytechnic librarians, special educators, physically challenged students and other researchers in the following ways.

First, this study will help polytechnic librarians in particular and all other librarians in the area of identifying the special library services offers to be made for physically challenged user group in their communities. Thus, it will make them to be pro-active in providing adequate resources and services that will serve the interest of the user groups. It will expose the polytechnic librarians on the need to make available educational media that will enhance service-delivery to the disabled library users and also bring out the basic problems encountered by these set of students in the course of using the library. By conducting this research where the disabled students who use the polytechnic libraries have a direct say in the sufficiency and use of existing resources, services and facilities provided by the libraries, and allowing for suggestions for the future will place the polytechnic librarians in a better position to serve this user group.

Moreover, it will also change the attitude of polytechnic librarians towards the physically challenged, having learned that they have the same rights like others. This will lead to effective library management on the part of the librarians working in the polytechnic libraries. In other words, it will help all library managers to create an enabling environment to achieve the aim of equal access and opportunities in library services to all library users without discrimination even in the face of dwindling financial resources.

Again, it will also help special educators in the area of providing adequate special education services and inclusive education best practices for the disadvantaged students. Moreover, it will aid social workers and government policy makers in the area of making adequate provision for the disabled students in the larger society by understanding the information needs and peculiar problems of the persons with disabilities.


Scope / Limitation of the Study

This study is restricted to availability and utilization of library resources and services by physically challenged students in Southeast states of Nigeria, which are Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo States. “Availability” is strictly restricted to physical presence while “utilization” relates to the possibility of the materials and services being in usable formats, frequency of use and utilitarian value of the resources and services.

The study covered the eight polytechnic libraries in South-East Nigeria namely Federal Polytechnic Nekede, Federal Polytechnic Okoh, Federal Polytechnic Unwana, IMT Enugu, Abia State Polytechnic Aba, OSISTECH Enugu, Imo State Polytechnic Ohaji- Umuagwo, and Temple Gate Polytechnic Abayi-Osisioma, while the respondents were all students with either hearing, mobility or visual disabilities in the polytechnics in one hand and the librarians in the polytechnic libraries under study on the other hand.


Chapter Five


Discussion of Results, Conclusions, Recommendation and Summary

This chapter discusses the results of the study as presented in the previous chapter. The discussion and interpretation of the findings are based on the research objectives, which the research questions sought to answer.


Discussion of Results

Types of library resources available to the mobility, hearing and visually challenged students

The findings indicate that general library materials are highly available in the polytechnic libraries. However the specialized resources for mobility, hearing and visually impaired students are scarcely available in the libraries. Similarly, there are some support resources and facilities for the physically challenged students that are available in the libraries but many others are not or are poorly available. The worst is acute shortage of disability officers who are skilled personnel responsible for taking care of the reading needs of persons with disabilities in the libraries. Findings from the focus group discussions revealed all these and a lot more including near absence of ramps with hand railings as it available only in few of the libraries and even where available it is either too steep or terminates at the entrance. Making available library resources is a key variable in library services, to persons with disabilities as it makes for equality of access and effective utilization of information for self-development and equal participation in national development. Libraries and librarians working in polytechnic should imbibe the basic tenet of inclusion in resource provision without prejudice to persons with disabilities. All these are in agreement with the opinions of Aina (1996), Ismaila and Ajobiewe (1998) and Atinmo (2000) that librarians should effectively provide information resources to serve the various categories of disable and handicapped students in Nigeria. They opined that provision of library and information resources to all is the key to door of information service, which is an essential ingredient of individual’s basic needs. Atinmo (2000) also noted that information and literature are important in the lives of every one. Information resources are vital for education, employment and enjoyment of all Nigerians.

The visually impaired and the hearing impaired seem to be the worst hit in terms of provision of resource. Reddy (1999) and Agbaje (2000) noted that the visually impaired students are at a great disadvantage and therefore recommended provision of sonic guide, laser cane, Braille writers, Mowat sensors, Kurzeweil reading machine, talking computer, electronic Braille devices, and audio devices. Unfortunately these specialized materials for the disabled are not easy to come by. Atinmo (2000) also noted that there are few institutions scattered in Nigeria that can help in the provision of resources and equipment for library and information service delivery to the physical challenged. Danlami (2000) noted that in Nigeria, we have just began to scratch the surface as far as providing materials for the physical challenged is concerned, and that provision of fund for the purchase of special materials for the disabled is very critical. Imam and Maduagwu (2000) also opined that most academic libraries do not acquire materials for the disabled due to the fewer number of the students in institutions coupled with slim budget and lack of space and storage facilities. All these reflect in the poor provision of resources and facilities for serving persons with disabilities in polytechnic libraries. Respondents in the FGD noted that for higher education institution, disabled students had to fend for themselves.

This not withstanding, libraries in polytechnic must find a way of providing resources and equipment for the physically challenged students, if the libraries must meet with their various information needs. Thus Rubin (2001) saw all these when he recommended that library buildings should have street-level entrance, entrance without steps among others. Again lifts and doorways should accommodate wheelchairs, ramps should be provided and floor surface should be non-slip so as not to constitute any navigational problem to persons with disabilities. All these and a lot more, he said, should be provided for the physically challenged students in addition to adequate information resources in the right format.

A review of the Australian Library Association (1998), American Library Association (2001) and International Federation of Library Association and Institution (2005) checklists and standards to be followed by public, academic, school and special libraries show, qualitatively, that the materials, resources and facilities to be acquired and put in place for persons with disabilities include among others.

Physical access: All parts of the library should be accessible to all. Libraries should remove all architectural barriers, ensure structural modifications to provide no door steps, shelves reachable from wheelchair, unobstructed aisles between shelves, ramps, elevators, handrails, public conveniences, adjustable desks, visible alarms, Braille catalogue, restrooms, clear pathways, easy to read signposts, non-slip surface, entry phone for hearing impaired, etc.

Media format: Materials should be available in different or appropriate formats for all disabled persons- hearing, mobility, visually impaired etc.

Services: Provision of waived late fines, extended reserve periods, borrowing by proxies, books by mail, reference services by fax or e – mail, home-delivery services, OPAC, volunteer readers, sign language interpreters, disability officers etc.

Assistive technology: Libraries to include assistive technology, internet resource, computer with adaptive keyboards, computers with special software to aid disabled persons, close circuit television, magnifying glasses, kurzeweil reading machine, Braille Machine etc.

Resource sharing: Resource sharing should be regarded as fundamental aspect of providing services to people with disabilities. Libraries of all types should see all these and more as guides to be followed in providing for persons with disabilities.

Types of library services available to the mobility, hearing, and visually challenged students in the polytechnics

The findings indicate that there is a wide array of general services rendered to the physically challenged polytechnic students including extended loan services, waived overdue fines, borrowing by proxies, search request assistance and book retrieval services among others. However, most of the specialized services to visually, mobility, and hearing challenged students are hardly available; such as emergency evacuation services, e-mail or fax services, online public access catalogue, sign language interpreters, visible alarm services and audiological services, Braille production and Braille teaching services among others are not provided. Services complement resources and the provision of the two determine the level of satisfaction of the library users. A look at the Austrian library Association (1998), American Library Association (2001) and International Federation of Library Association and Institutions (2005) checklists and standards for libraries that are disability – friendly show the various services to be provided by libraries. Reynolds (2009) opined that library services are geared towards ensuring that users with disability are to take full advantage of the facilities so as not to be disadvantaged in any way. The range of services a library can offer depends on available resources, budget, trained staff and other factors that would be identified as the services progress.

Extent of use of library resources by the physically challenged polytechnic students

The findings from the study indicate that the physically challenged students use the general library materials to a high extent. The specialized resources are scarcely used by the 3 groups of physically challenged students studied.
Extent of use is been investigated against the backdrop that availability does not imply accessibility and utilization. Thus what may be available may not be used and what is not available will not be used, again what is available and inaccessible will not be utilized on the other hand. Iwara (2010) corroborated this when he opined that it is possible for library resources and services to be available and yet not accessible and where they are notaccessible, effective utilization would not be realized. Thus there is a connectively between availability and accessibility/utilization of library resources by physically challenged persons. General library materials are much more available in our library than the specialized materials. The focus group discussion with the physically challenged students revealed that most of the resources in special format are not utilized because they are not available and sometimes when available are not made known to the potential users. Thus most of the times the readers with disabilities, especially visual and hearing impaired, had to fend for themselves in terms of providing information sources and facilities. Danlami (1998) supported this statement when he said that availability and accessibility of information resources for the persons with disabilities is in a sorry state, which negatively affects the rate of utilization of the resources. The resources are therefore not utilized because they are either unavailable or inaccessible to the potential readers in the libraries. The “Book famine” in Nigeria is affecting the extent of usage of materials by physically challenged persons, especially visual and hearing impaired who need information resources in special formats.

One major problem, from the findings, that has raised its head in the libraries studied, in addition to unavailability of resources is the issue of physical access to the library and its collection. The physical layout of the building may cause problems for people who are blind or have mobility difficulties or even those who use wheelchair. Agbaje (2000) also saw it when he identified poor physical access into the library and poor bibliographic access to resources as major reasons for poor utilization of resources in the library. The unavailability of specialized resources especially for the visually and hearing impaired in almost all the libraries studied brought about the no significant difference in the extent of use of library resources by the visually and hearing-impaired students which was proved in hypotheses 2 and 3. The significant difference in the extent of use of library resources by mobility impaired students arose from the differences existing among the polytechnic libraries interms of provision of resources and other support resources and facilities such as height adjustable catalogue, height adjustable workstations, ramps, hand railings, among others. This was proved by test of hypothesis one.

Extent of use of library services by mobility, hearing and visually challenged polytechnic students

The findings indicate that the physically challenged students use the general library services offered while the specialized ones are not used as much. The focus group discussion also revealed that some of these services are not used because they are not available and some others are not used because the clientele are not aware of their existence in the polytechnic libraries. All these were revealed in the course of focus group discussion with the respondents. Thus, availability is a major factor affecting utilization of library services by the students with disability. Some times when the services are not available in the libraries the physically challenged students make their own arrangement. Other factors as noted by Agbaje (2000) are physical access to the library, lack of skilled personnel on disability issues and general paucity of fund to provide services. These factors are common in all the polytechnic libraries studied and it brought about poor availability of special services provided in the libraries coupled with the fact that most of the respondents across the polytechnics provide some of the services themselves. This also brought about the no significant differences in the utilization of services by the three groups of physically challenged students, which was proved in hypothesis 4, 5, and 6. In all, serving patrons with disability is an interesting area, but it is very challenging. Librarians serving disabled users can provide modified services in the areas of reference, circulation, and serial services and also in the provision of specialized equipment. Polytechnic libraries must be committed to providing services to complement resources and meet the needs of the disabled students in the community.

Level of awareness of polytechnic librarians on the library services for physically challenged students

The findings from the respondents indicate that librarians working in the polytechnics are aware of some of the general services to be rendered to the physically challenged students. However, they are poorly aware of a reasonable number of the specialized services for persons with disabilities. This also explains why they are not available in the libraries, for the librarians cannot make available what they are not knowledgeable about. To increase level of awareness of librarians on specialized services to persons with disabilities, there is need for training and re-training. The interactions with the physically challenged in the FGD also revealed that some of the specialized services for the disabled are not known by the librarians, and that there is general poor attitude of librarians to persons with disability. Adequate training can help to increase awareness of librarians on the services of patrons with disability and reduce prejudices against the disabled on the part of the librarians serving them. Moahi and Monau (1993) in their joint study also recommended in-service training of library personnel on information services and resources needs of disabled population and how to deal with persons with different disabilities. Butdisuwan (1999) also recommended that librarians should be better prepared for services of the persons with disabilities by having formal or informal training/education or both.

Formal training is generally seen as courses taken at library schools. He noted that few library schools put emphasis on disadvantaged groups in the undergraduate curriculum and where available it is only an elective. Some library schools offer it at graduate level. He therefore recommended that library schools should develop more compulsory courses concerning information management and services for the disadvantaged groups in their formal training starting at undergraduate levels. All these will increase the knowledge of librarians on services for the disabled and make them to be better prepared for service- delivery.

Problems encountered by these students in using library resources and services

The 3 groups of physical challenged students strongly agree that poor architectural design of the library, lack of current books/journals, no borrowing by proxies, inconvenient library environment, and lack of requisite skills on the part of library staff on disability matters are the general problems encountered by them in using libraries. Other general problems that they agree pose challenges to them are lack of competence in the use of libraries by physically challenged students, strict access rules and bureaucratic bottlenecks to relevant resources, lack of competent staff on disability matters and poor attitude of staff towards the disabled.

In terms of specific problems to the visually challenged, the respondents strongly agree that the following factors constitute their problems: lack of Braille signs, unavailability of talking books, lack of volunteer readers, library building has no ramps and railings and lack of CD player and tape recorders. They also agree that lack of Braille catalogue, Braille books, and computer with voice-transcription devices and library building with intimidating steps are all problems they encounter.

On the part of the mobility challenged students, they strongly agreed that unavailability of elevators, library doors without automatic door opener and inadequate accessible pathways are the specific problems they encounter. They also strongly agree that absence of elevators with buttons reachable from the wheelchair, shelves and very tall shelves including public conveniences without adequate railings to suit students on wheelchair or crutches are also peculiar problems they encounter. Others, which they also agreed to, include no specialized workstations, lack of adjustable catalogue and entrance without wide doors.

The hearing challenged students strongly agree that lack of reference service via text telephone could pose special challenges to them. They also agreed that unavailability of induction loop, lack of sign language interpreters and lack of sign language videos are all specific problems they encountered in using libraries in the polytechnics.
Again the interactions in FGD revealed other problems of the physically challenged in the libraries such problems include uncooperative and general poor attitude of library personnel towards the disabled, non-inclusion of physically challenged in program planning, poor records and statistics of disabled population, very tall shelves for people on wheel chairs, and aisles between shelves and tables not up to 60 inches and general lack of institutional support for work with disabled persons in the library. Owino (2000) Agbaje and Olabode (20000) after considering the myriads of problems facing persons with disabilities opined that it is crystal clear that the level of development of libraries in our society in making materials available and accessible to the disabled readers is a hard task yet to be surmounted. They noted some of the problems facing the physically challenged in libraries to include: – inaccessible library buildings, poor funding, inadequate training on special education by staff personnel, poor statistics of persons with disabilities and poor co- ordination of available services.

Echezona, Osadebe and Asogwa Eze (2009) also noted that the challenges of inclusive library are enormous but not insurmountable that the end result of providing an enabling environment should be the decisive factor. They also identified some of the challenges of inclusive library services such as lack of skilled and properly trained personnel, lack of funds, attitude and behavior to the disabled are very negative, and architectural barrier as most of the older libraries were built before era of inclusive education. Thus such libraries still have imposing steps, high bookshelves, narrow doorways and lack of elevators are still prevalent in some libraries with multiple floors. They noted that these obstacles could be extremely frustrating, if not impossible for the handicapped to cope with. All these agree with the research findings above.

Strategies for curbing the problems encountered by physically challenged students

The research finding indicate that the 3 groups of physically challenged students – mobility, hearing and visually impaired – agree, strongly, that resource-sharing among libraries, employment of skilled personnel on disability matters for the library, organizing special orientation and library use instruction for the physically challenged students and provision of selection policy that takes care of disability needs, are general strategies for curbing the myriad of problems facing the disabled. They also strongly agree that inclusion of disabled staff members in policy making for the library and in-service workshop for staff on disability matters will help to curb the problems of the physically challenged students in the libraries.

Specific strategies for curbing the problems of the visually challenged as strongly agreed by the respondents include that library building should be with ramps and railings, libraries should provide volunteer readers and that library guides should be provided in audio formats. They also agreed strongly that provision of computers with voice-transcription by libraries, redesigning the library structure to remove steps, and provision of specialized information resources such as CDs, Braille books, cassette tapes etc.

The mobility-impaired respondents strongly agree that provision of accessible study tables, provision of elevators with moderate-height buttons, provision of external wheelchair hand railings, and wide doors with automatic opener are necessary for curbing the special problems of the mobility impaired. They also strongly agree that personal computers should be on height-adjustable tables, aisles between shelves should be up to 60 inches and that computers should have adaptive keyboards. They also agree that provision of accessible pathway, public conveniences with adequate railings are strategies for curbing the problems they encounter.

The hearing impaired respondents on their own part, strongly agree that provision of information via text telephone by libraries, provision of sign language interpreters and documented library guide could be of help in curbing their problems in using the libraries. They also agree that provision of sign language video, CDs/DVDs and provision of induction loop and other audiological devices would also go a long way in curbing the special problems encountered by the hearing impaired students in the polytechnic libraries.

Moreover, during the interactive sessions in the FGD, the respondents also recommended effective legislation on disability matters and keeping of adequate records and statistics of disabled population for effective planning. They also recommended special user instruction for the physically challenged, effective marketing of services and special intervention fund for the libraries through institutional support programs.

Echezona, Osadebe and Asogwa-Eze (2009) also agreed to all these and a lot more when they said that library building should be modernized with the needs of the disabled people in mind. Emerging buildings should include ramps and lifts for easy movement, good lighting within the library building and special car parking facilities and construction of special toilet facility for the disabled, moderate furniture size, acquisition policy that takes into consideration materials for the handicapped and information repackaging to provide alternative format books. Materials in alternate format include putting print materials on audio CDS, or Braille types and providing special softwares like test-to-voice equipment etc. Imam and Maduagwu(2000), Agbaje(2000), Ajobiewe and Fatokun (2000) also recommended among others; staff orientation, library guides on audio CD, provision of disability officers and resource-sharing as means of ensuring availability and utilization of library resources for the handicapped population. They encouraged libraries and organizations that produce information materials for the different persons with disabilities to feel free to lend, sell, exchange and in some cases donate such materials to libraries andorganizations taking care of the disabled persons outside their borders. Resource sharing is important because no one library can hope to meet all the needs of varied interests at different levels. All these recommendations are in line with the findings of this research.


Conclusion

The responses and observations show how some polytechnic libraries are making genuine efforts to serve persons with disabilities while many appear to be neglecting the issue. The physically challenged students are not adequately taken care of in the institutions of higher learning. It is evident that specialized information resources and other support facilities that will enhance availability and utilization of the library facilities by the physically challenged students are not provided in most of the libraries. Their interests are hardly taken into consideration, even in the architectural designs of the libraries. It must be noted that the disabled persons would like to be appreciated for whom they are and given all the necessary information they require to compete favorably in the wider society. A library can be a friend of all for life, when library policies are inclusive and meaningful strategies to serve patrons are developed thereby ensuring that all users, regardless of disability have equal chances of participation and contribution to societal development. Such a person would have improved quality of life for self-reliance and overall national development. In short, a person is disabled if the world at large, including libraries fails to take into account needs arising from his physical or mental differences. Restructuring the polytechnic library resources and services along inclusive lines is a reflection of the social model theory and the Ranganathan’s second law of librarianship, which this work is anchored on. Polytechnic libraries need to design program and special services geared towards readers who are physically challenged in order not to be discriminatory and disabling.


Recommendations

Based on the findings of this study, the researcher makes the following recommendations that will help enhance the availability and utilization of library resources and services by physical challenged students.

  1. More current (up-to-date) general materials such as journals, microforms, magazines, government document, reference sources and student project reports should be made available in polytechnic libraries.
  2. Specialized resources for the mobility impaired including computers with adaptive keyboards, close circuit television among others should be provided.
  3. Specialized resources for the hearing impaired including sign language video, induction loop, audiological devices, amplified telephone among others should be provided.
  4. There is need to provide other support resources and facilities like ramps, handrails, special toilet facilities etc that could help in ensuring availability and utilization of library resources and services.
  5. There is need for the provision of skill personnel in charge of persons with disabilities in the library. To save further damage, there is immediate need to designate a library staff as disability officer pending the employment of skilled staff.

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