The VIP treatment

Edinburgh City Council wins an award for making its libraries more accessible to blind and visually impaired people

25 Nov 2016 by Olivia Wannan

Visually impaired Edinburghers are being treated like VIPs at their local libraries, in a new initiative that won the city an excellence award.

Edinburgh City Council has made its libraries more accessible for visually impaired and blind people by expanding its audio book collection, introducing speech-to-text software and facilitating reading groups for the visually impaired.

Computers with improved accessibility and user training sessions are also part of the library group’s visually impaired person (VIP) initiative, which received the help of the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) Scotland, the Edinburgh Macular Degeneration Society and Guide Dogs.

The central city library also installed a soundproof acoustic pod to offer deaf-blind and blind people privacy when they wish to used speech and voice-activated technology.

The VIP project, which received input from people with sight loss, has won a gold excellence award in the Tackling inequalities and improving health section at the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities ceremony.

More than 150 people with sight loss have now accessed the Edinburgh library services, many of who had never used one of the facilities before, explained Paul McCloskey, the acting libraries and information manager.

“This has resulted in greater use of library and council services and improved social contact for some who were previously more isolated,” he highlighted, adding: “The project confirms what we learned from the focus groups, that the ‘people’ part of ‘blind and partially sighted people’ has to be paramount. The type of technology best suited to them, and what people want from the library, are as individual as they are.”

RNIB Scotland trained the library staff as part of the project. Its director, Campbell Chalmers, emphasised that: “Reading can be an absolute lifeline to people who have sight loss.”

Image credit: Abhi Sharma


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