Category Archives: Disabilities

Missing the Point: a Question of Accessibility

I’m not an accessibility expert, but as an academic librarian I’ve had opportunities to work with disabled students, and to attend workshops about best practice in terms of accessibility.  Some years ago I published an article on the subject which – to my surprise, since I’m hardly a specialist – has probably attracted more attention than most of my musicology papers!

McAulay, Karen E.  ‘Studying with Special Needs: Some Personal Narratives’ (Library Review 54(8), Oct 2005), 486-491

A couple of things in the past week prompt me to commit a couple of thoughts to a quick blogpost.

Visual

Visual disturbance

Why would anyone think that black-on-red is a good combination for a poster?  I’m a bit long-sighted with good corrective specs, but I’m thinking of people with poor vision, or dyslexia.  If I can’t clearly read a gig announcement on Twitter, then what about folk with greater challenges?  Please! Don’t do it.

Aural

My ears are a bit worse than my eyes – not much, but I do wear hearing aids for minor hearing loss.  If I’m in a noisy place, even using the ‘noisy place’ settting on my hearing aids, then I am not going to hear everything that’s said to me.  The noisier it is, the more I’ll miss.  Imagine missing maybe two words per sentence, or more if it’s very noisy.  After a few sentences, the effect is cumulative – I’ll begin to lose the gist of what’s being said, and eventually, I’ll zone out.

I’ll say that again, missing out every tenth word …

My ears are a bit worse than my eyes –     much, but I do wear hearing aids for minor         loss.  If I’m in a noisy place, even using     ‘noisy place’ settting on my hearing aids, then I    not going to hear everything that’s said to me.      noisier it is, the more I’ll miss.  Imagine missing       two words per sentence, or more if it’s very      .  After a few sentences, the effect is cumulative – I’ll       to lose the gist of what’s being said, and            I’ll zone out. 

Now, if it gets noisier – say I’m missing every eighth word …

My ears are a bit worse than    eyes – not much, but I do wear         aids for minor hearing loss.  If I’m in a       place, even using the ‘noisy place’ settting    my hearing aids, then I am not       to hear everything that’s said to me.      noisier it is, the more I’ll miss.          missing maybe two words per sentence, or       if it’s very noisy.  After a few          , the effect is cumulative – I’ll begin to      the gist of what’s being said, and           , I’ll zone out. 

Of course, this is a rather artificial example because some words are harder to catch than others, and some voices are easier to hear than others, but you begin to see the problem! (YouTube: Hear Me Out)

Additionally – and this is a layperson’s observation, but I think a valid one: if someone’s concentrating on the process of hearing (or reading) something, then there is less cognitive power available to process what the message actually is, so understanding won’t be as deep as it might otherwise have been.

I don’t have any answers to suggest – but I would just like to put the thought out there – ‘breakaway groups’ in different corners of a room are really difficult for someone with poor hearing.  (It can also be tricky hearing ‘questions from the floor’ if we’re part of an audience. Sitting near the front to hear the speaker, anyone at the back of the auditorium is very hard to hear without amplification.)

Featured Image by Robin Higgins from Pixabay

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Three conferences in April … and networking

I’m surprised I’ve made it to the end of the month, really!  Earlier this month, I went to my professional association’s annual conference – the International Association of Music  Libraries (UK & Ireland) Annual Study Weekend.  I had the opportunity to speak at it, so quite a bit of my spare time in March went into making it good!  I spoke about my latest research project and how I hope to extend it more widely, if I can get grant funding.

That was a fairly last-minute opportunity, but not so last-minute as my session at the Academic Music Librarians’ Seminar which preceded the Conference.  I decided to raise the question of ‘Performing the Collections’ – getting the library readers to explore and interact with rarer items in our libraries, and I cited examples of glee-singing in Trinity Laban, the Library Choir at the University of St Andrews, and the Bodleian Library’s Resident Artist, Dr. Menaka PP Bora, who interprets Indian dance.

That session also saw talks by other librarians about how they engage students in user education sessions. The giant snakes and ladders board used at RNCM was the zaniest idea, but certainly seems to have caught on.  (Can I see myself adopting it?  I’m not sure I have the guts!)

The following Saturday saw me shoogling up to Kingussie in the Highlands to accompany a couple of Schubert’s Ossian Lieder, which used German translations of the historic James Macpherson’s so-called Ossian tales. I’m hoping to do a public engagement library seminar in Inverness with a lecturer from the University of the Highlands and Islands, later this year, so this was a great opportunity to meet her and start the conversation. (Networking, it’s all about networking!)

And then this last weekend, I delivered my Ghosts of Borrowers Past paper again at Musica Scotica, in Stirling.  This time, I was a co-organiser, but my main role was as communications and marketing officer – by the time I got there I was exhausted, as I’d been managing the two email accounts and social media postings leading up to the conference, answering queries about bookings and amenities and forwarding scheduling queries to mye co-organisers.  Nonetheless, all went well, as my Storify story reveals.

And now I have to put my teaching artist hat back on, to think again about the teaching sessions I gave before Christmas! – is it really that long ago?

As it happens, on a personal note, I’ve been working with our youngest son to help him organise his studies and exam revision, because his ASD poses problems that his older brothers just didn’t encounter.  I have considerable admiration for special needs teachers, considering how hard I can see things are for someone at the high-function end of the spectrum.  It makes me realise how much structure has to be in place before learning can happen – not to mention how hard it is to keep someone else’s attention from wandering!