Someone recently asked me:
“Our library has access to some funds for technology purchase and an interest in using the funds to make our library more accessible and useful. Can you suggest some useful tools for serving deaf and hard of hearing patrons?”
And I thought perhaps others might find my answer useful, so here you go!:
I have listed some ideas below, but really it depends on what your focus is. There are technologies you can buy, but often serving the deaf and hard of hearing community is more about ongoing services, such as providing interpreters for programs, providing captioning for video content on the library’s website, and providing training for library staff to better serve these patrons. Unlike say, providing a wheelchair ramp, where it is a one-time cost, improving services to deaf and hard of hearing patrons is often an ongoing cost and effort. (And even purchasing an FM system or a communications device won’t do you much good unless staff get the training to know how to use it effectively.) So, if at all possible, I encourage you to invest in staff training and/or ongoing provision of services such as interpreters or captioning, instead of just one-time technology purchases.
That said, here are some thoughts:
- Assistive Listening Systems: There are many different ones and you’ll need to think about your library’s population, goals, and needs to determine whether/which one would be best for you. The National Deaf Center has a good guide to the different types.
- The Ubi-Duo: This is a piece of technology that assists in face-to-face communication. It is very cool, but frankly you could do the same thing with an open Word document on a computer, as long as staff were properly trained in best practices for communication.
- Interpreters: Resources for finding and working with interpreters.
- On-demand interpreting services: Some agencies now offer on-demand video interpreting, which offers libraries a great opportunity to improve service to signing patrons. There are different ones, but the one I know best is Jeenie – an app that the library would subscribe to. You just install the app on a phone, tablet, or computer, and whenever you need an interpreter, you just click the link and the interpreter comes on screen to interpret between you and your patron. This would work well for reference or circulation desk transactions – situations where you couldn’t book an interpreter in advance.
- Training: And since I mentioned training, I guess I should mention that I do trainings in this area. 🙂 You can find more information about booking private trainings here and my upcoming open-registration webinars and ecourses for library staff through the American Library Association here.