Additional Abilities Expo Highlights

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I could not take in a fraction of the booths, events, workshops, etc. at the Abilities Expo that took place in Chicago this past weekend, but, in addition to discovering the AWESOMENESS of Quad Rugby / Wheel Chair Rugby, here are some more highlights for me of what I was able to experience and learn about:

  • Another major highlight for me was that I got to meet Barton and Megan Cutter, a married couple who are life coaches, writing coaches, mentors, motivational speakers, and more. To read about them, check out their website at Cutter’s Edge Consulting. They are both encouraging people, and it was a great joy for me to meet them. I appreciated that they took the time to talk with me and also that they encouraged me in my creative writing. They are the kind of people who leave one feeling uplifted after even a few words with them. Later on, I also got to listen to some of a talk given by them about “Creating Healthy Relationships: Tips for Dating and Intimacy”, and they had a lot of wise advice.
  • Additionally, I listened to a talk given by Stevie Hopkins about some of his life story and his sister Annie’s and also about them founding a company called 3E LOVE. I did not condone everything in the talk, but then, no one is perfect including me. (I do not condone everything in my own life story either!) Overall, I did so appreciate the remarkable person he is, some points throughout his talk, his courage in sharing his story, and especially the overall message of love: as humans, we want to be loved and respected and appreciated and valued and known for who we truly are; we do not want to be belittled, left out, misunderstood, discriminated against, rejected, overlooked, etc. I could relate to a lot of what he had to say.
  • I also listened to a talk given by Timothy J. Caruso, a physical therapist at Shriners Hospital for Children on “Adaptive Equipment for Kids, Adolescents & Teens”. I liked how he frequently referred to MacGyver (the famous, resourceful, creative, fictional TV series agent who uses everyday materials to solve complex problems). When it comes to adaptive technology and accessibility, there is not a one-size fits all solution – as every person is unique. Some customization may be required. And, at times, in some cases, it may be possible to create comparable homemade solutions to expensive products that can be effective and save money. It is important to be creative and resourceful and to try things out before buying them and to explore what is most beneficial for the particular user(s). For all of us, it is essential to determine what matters most to us personally as an individual and to find ways to pursue what we care about, such as passions, goals, hobbies, interests, dreams, lifestyles. In one example, he shared about a boy in a wheelchair who really cared about going fishing, and that it was possible in that situation to find funding to get him a beach wheelchair, so that he could go fishing. It is not always possible for us to achieve everything we would like to in life, but it is important to evaluate and courageously pursue what matters most to us and see what happens. Also, we often need to collaborate with others to find solutions in life because as individuals we do not know everything.
  • Additionally, I got to see an interesting product called CaptionCall that facilitates talking on the phone for those with hearing loss by creating captions of what is being said on a screen.

I would definitely recommend attending the AbilitiesExpo. It was a beneficial experience for me, a great place to meet some amazing people, to be encouraged in my own interests and passions and dreams, to be inspired by others, and to learn about some ways to improve accessibility.

 

 

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Quad Rugby / Wheelchair Rugby

This past weekend I got to attend the Abilities Expo in Chicago, IL. As an avid sports fan and athlete, a huge highlight for me was getting to watch a quad rugby demonstration given by the Chicago Bears (for further details about that team and the sport, see the United States Quad Rugby Association’s website).

In brief, it is AWESOME – an intense and exciting sport that was a whole lot of fun to watch. Personally, I could not stop smiling and wanting to take in all of the action. I will definitely be following this sport some more in the future.

Turns out, you can watch some videos posted on YouTube of a few of the 2012 Paralympic rugby games. It would be great if the Paralympics was fully televised in the United States (here is an article about the disappointing coverage in the United States for the 2012 Paralympic Games). I have been missing out on some excellent sports and impressive athletes! It is always exciting to discover new things to appreciate – for me, wheelchair rugby is definitely a sport that will be add to my list of likes.

Beach Accessibility

I am an avid beach lover and Lake Michigan is one of my favorite places to be. I cannot imagine not being able to access the beach. However, I had not previously considered how accessible beaches would be for those with various mobility challenges. But just today on Facebook, I noticed an article about the Disability Network of Northern Michigan working together with the Petoskey State Park DNR and Petoskey locals to raise money to make the Petoskey State Park Beach more accessible through Mobi Mats and a Mobi Chair. That article can be found here: (http://disabilitynetwork.org/programs/access-for-everyone/petoskey-state-park-beach-access-project/).

I also found another article about Grand Haven State Park having two floating wheel chairs and a sand wheel chair to aid in beach accessibility. That article notes that:

Ensuring that Michigan state parks are accessible to all outdoor enthusiasts has been a focus of the Department of Natural Resources. “One of the DNR’s main goals for all of our state parks, recreation areas, campgrounds and boating access sites is that they be universally accessible and enjoyed by everyone,” said Ron Olson, chief of the DNR’s Parks and Recreation Division.

It also looks like the DNR website also has page with information related to accessibility and making further improvements. Hopefully things will continue to become more accessible, so that everyone can enjoy Michigan’s beaches and parks!

Some Resources on Assistive Technology and Accessibility

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The following are some great resources for learning more about assistive technology and accessibility:

Books

Green, R. A. & Blair, V. (2011). Keep It Simple: A Guide to Assitive Technologies. Denver, CO: ABC-CLIO, LLC.

Robitaille, S. (2010). The Illustrated Guide to Assitive Technology and Devices. New York: Demos Medical Publishing, LLC.

Websites

The Rehab Tool website contains a great overview of assistive technology.

The Alliance for Technology Access has a great resource hub included.

Events

The Abilities Expo is a free conference that comes to various cities. You can register online. It is a great event for learning about assistive technology including new developments and for trying out some of the technology in a hands-on way. The Expo contains a wealth of free workshops, events, and information.

Social Media

Facebook has pages for all sorts of interests groups and organizations that are related to accessibility, one example is a page for Library Services for the Deaf & Hard of Hearing.

On Twitter you can search for the hashtag #A11y for posts related to accessibility. [Apparently, the 11 in the a11y is meant to signify the 11 letters between the letters a and y in the word accessibility – a short-hand to save characters.]

Technology Companies

Apple has a website that shows what assistive technology features are built in to their computers, operating systems, software, apps, and devices.

Likewise, Microsoft has a website that showcases the accessibility features that are a part of its products.

Freedom Scientific is one company that produces a lot of assistive technology products.

Library Resources

The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) has information about resources available and where their libraries are located.

The Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA) is dedicated to advocating for universal access and has a lot of great resources on accessibility.

The Association of College & Research Libraries has a Universal Accessibility Interest Group that “serves as a resource and discussion forum for academic library disability service issues such as web accessibility, assistive technology, reference and instruction for users with disabilities, captioning processes, and any other accessibility issues of interest to participants.”

The Library and Information Technology Association has an Accessibility Interest Group that “is intended as a resource and discussion forum about library disability service issues such as web accessibility, assistive technology, reference and instruction for users with disabilities, and any other disability issues of interest to participants.”

Consider the Many Benefits of Adding Captions to Online Videos

First of all, here is a great overview from the The Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP) that defines captioning and how captions can benefit all users (universal access):

as the process of converting the audio content of a television broadcast, webcast, film, video, CD-ROM, DVD, live event, or other production into text and displaying the text on a screen or monitor. Captions not only display the written equivalent of the spoken language, but they also include items, such as speaker identification, sound effects, and music description. . . . Captions relay not only what is being said but also what is being communicated. . . . Captions are essential for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. Without captions, these individuals wouldn’t have access to the audio content of a program. But captions aren’t just for individuals with a hearing loss. They help emerging readers to improve their reading skills, and they help non-native English speakers learn the language. Captions also allow you to watch TV in noisy situations or watched streamed programs on your smart phone when you don’t have headphones. In short, captions benefit us all.

Now, earlier in this semester, I created a book talk video for one of my library science classes. As a Project ALFA (Accessible Libraries for All) fellow, I am learning to consider ways to make libraries more accessible for all users. One simple way of doing that is to add closed captions to videos for people who are deaf or who have a hearing impairment. Conley (2011) notes:

One in five Americans age 12 and older experiences hearing loss severe enough to hinder communication.

Clearly, captioning would be beneficial to a lot of people. Even though I hear well at this point in my life, I still often enjoy watching movies with the captions turned on to make sure that I do not miss anything.

I am just learning to make rather basic videos, so I was curious to see how challenging it would be for a rookie like me to add captions. For my class project that would be uploaded to YouTube, I decided to experiment with using YouTube’s caption creation method of submitting a transcript(and for this method, it is very easy on the user’s end –  if you can type and format a document and upload it, then that is about all there is to this method – very doable for someone like me with little video creation background).

YouTube’s instructions for creating a transcript file (that can be found here: http://support.google.com/youtube/bin/static.py?hl=en&topic=2734693&guide=2734661&page=guide.cs) are as follows:

A transcript file must be saved as a plain text file without any special characters like smartquotes or emdashes. Here’s what a transcript might look like:

>> FISHER: All right. So, let’s begin. This session is: Going Social with the YouTube APIs. I am Jeff Fisher, and this is Johann Hartmann, we’re presenting today.

[pause]

[Note: The above is just what is mentioned in the YouTube instructions. For YouTube the chevrons may be necessary in helping the speech recognition technology to identify the speaker. But if using other captioning software, the chevrons may not be necessary. As one commenter to this blog post, Sveta, responded:

It’s not a good idea to use chevrons (>>) to identify speakers. You need to identify speakers by actually adding names or describing. For example – “John: Hello!” or “Father: Hello!” or “Female voice: Hello!”. Chevrons are okay for real-time captioning (for example, news programs that are going in real time), but not for pre-recorded video.]

Here are further instructions from YouTube’s method of creating a transcript file (that can be found here: http://support.google.com/youtube/bin/static.py?hl=en&topic=2734693&guide=2734661&page=guide.cs) are as follows:

YouTube uses experimental speech recognition technology to provide automatic timing for your English, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, German, Italian, French, Portuguese, Russian or Dutch transcript. Automatic timing creates a caption file that you can download. Short videos with good sound quality and clear spoken English synchronize best.

Here are some other things you can do to help get the best automatic timing results for your transcripts:

-Identify long pauses (3 seconds or longer) or music in the transcript with a double line break.

-Use double line breaks anytime you want to force a caption break.

Here are some common captioning practice that help readability:

-Descriptions inside square brackets like [music] or [laughter] can help people with hearing disabilities to understand what is happening in your video.

-You can also add tags like >> at the beginning of a new line to identify speakers or change of speaker.

Once the transcript is created, you can upload it under your video creation account area on YouTube. The instructions for that on YouTube (http://support.google.com/youtube/bin/static.py?hl=en&topic=2734793&guide=2734661&page=guide.cs) are as follows:

Uploading/Downloading

Once you’ve created your transcript or caption file, you can upload them to YouTube to attach them to your video.

-Mouse over your username located in the upper right corner of every page.

-Click on Video Manager. You will then be directed to a page showing your uploaded videos.

-Find the video to which you’d like to add captions/subtitles and click the down arrow located to the right of the Edit and Insight buttons. Select the Captions button from the drop down menu.

-Click the Add New Captions or Transcript button on the right hand side of the page. You will be prompted to Browse for a file to upload.

-Select a caption/subtitle or transcript file to upload. If you are uploading a transcript (no timecodes), select Transcript file, otherwise, select Caption file.

-Select the appropriate language. If you wish, you can also enter a track name.

-Click the Upload File button.

-In order to download auto-captions for a video, you must be the video owner. If this is true:

-Sign into your account

-On the Captions pane, click on any track. Click on the Download button.

-YouTube will then save a file called captions.sbv to your desktop.

Note you will not necessarily be downloading the caption file in the format you uploaded it, so it is always recommended to save any captions file you make locally.

Once your transcript file is uploaded, YouTube then synchs the transcript with the video’s audio using experimental speech recognition technology. This is a simple process for the user and the results are impressive. (This is unlike YouTube’s experimental speech recognition technology that attempts to automatically create captions from the speech alone from a video, which currently produces results that are quite horrendous.)

YouTube’s Caption Settings and Foreign Language Translation Feature

If you click on the CC button below the video window in YouTube you can turn captions on or off (just make sure you click the “English” option and not the “English (automatic captions)” option. Also, if you click the CC button, there are some options for making the font size of the captions larger or smaller and for changing the font style and the foreground and background colors, so users who are watching YouTube videos can experiment with personalizing the captions and finding what is most comfortable, appealing, and easiest to read for them as individuals.

YouTube also has a feature under the caption settings where the user can select an option for the captions to be translated into various foreign languages using Google’s translation tool. While that will not be a perfect translation, it can contribute a great deal to making a video accessible to speakers of many languages, and that is another benefit of adding captions. For libraries, who may have various immigrant groups or second language speakers or language students and so forth, that is another great reason to add captions to contribute to accessibility.

A Few Best Practices

While I am by no means an expert, some basic practices I encountered were to: keep lines short (roughly 7-12 words, 1 or 2 lines); check to see that captions are synchronized with the speech; double-space between lines in the transcript; capitalize the first letter of each line; use proper grammar; determine natural breaks in the dialogue; communicate other important info like sound effects and speaker identification; proofread.

Benefits

As mentioned previously, some benefits of captioning are that it makes accessible to deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers; captions are translatable into foreign languages; and captioning a video also greatly improves web indexing and makes it easier for search engines to locate your video.

A Note About Copyright

If you are adding captions to your own videos, then there are no worries about copyright because you are the creator of the content. But should it ever become necessary to add captions to someone else’s video be aware that copyright could very well be an issue – DCMP notes that:

“Commercially produced media may not be altered without written permission from the copyright holder.”

This also applies even for educational purposes. DCMP recommends the following:

If you want to show a video in the classroom, the first thing to do is to contact the producer and see if a captioned version is available, sometimes there are.” [And if not, ask for permission to caption the copy you own.] “Usually video producers do not object to educational institutions captioning their media.”

Conclusion

There are numerous ways to add captions to programs through free software on the web. So feel free to explore and look into the plethora of options available based on your skill level and video knowledge and also what kind of video you are making and in what format you will be publishing the video. Captions are becoming easier and easier to create and have many benefits. Have fun exploring and experimenting!

Bibliography:

Perspectives

On a Project ALFA (http://www.projectalfa.slis.ua.edu/) trip to Atlanta, we got to visit the public library and learn about accessibility, and we visited a university’s services for making classes more accessible to students with various access challenges. Also, on one of the days, I got to simulate being blind while walking through the city with a sighted guide from the aquarium back to our hotel. I could understand then how when someone loses the use of one of their senses, such as sight, it is not at all true that their other senses suddenly become any better than they were before (such as being able to hear better, etc.), but it is definitely true that you become more aware of your other senses and rely on them more and pay more attention. As humans, we have a lot of competing information that comes at us, and we may overly rely on one sense while filtering out others.

When I experienced walking through the city blindfolded, it was a whole new perspective. I had no sense of depth or distance. Some people who have low vision can see some shadows or light. But with the blindfold, I could just see blackness, like some people who are blind – it varies what the experience is like for each person who faces visual challenges. From the simulation, I could see how a guide person, a cane, or a guide dog would be super helpful. I would want to try all of the above. When trying being blindfolded myself, after watching others in the group try it before me, I could understand why they walked so very slowly. I am normally a super fast walker, but I did the same with the blindfold on. It was not at all that I did not trust my sighted guide – who was perfectly amazing at describing the surroundings and the terrain – it was just that it was such a huge adjustment of my senses and awareness of interacting with my surroundings with not being able to rely primarily on sight.

I couldn’t believe all of the other things I noticed that I would not normally be aware of – like the texture of the ground – pavement, grating, or the dotted sections they sometimes place on sidewalks to indicate an intersection / road crossing. I could feel the surfaces beneath my feet. I also noticed more the incline of the terrain where I was walking – if we were going uphill or downhill, and I paid much more attention to sounds. The world was fuller and richer in ways I had been oblivious to before. That whole experience gave me a greater respect and appreciation for those who take on the challenges of blindness or low vision everyday; it was a huge learning experience for me, and my perspective and wonder for the marvels of the world around me grew immensely.

Later that evening, our group went out for dinner. Several members of my group reminded the waitress that we needed individual bills that were itemized, so we could be reimbursed. When the waitress got to me, she addressed the two people sitting next to me and asked them if I was on one of their bills, and they said, “no, she’s on her own bill.” The waitress then incredulously said, “really?” as though she didn’t believe them that I was old enough to be paying for myself. How very rude and disrespectful and incredibly hurtful. The people in my group were really understanding. They have taken the time to know me for who I really am and respect me.They noticed that the waitress had not even addressed me, but rather the people around me and also how her words and actions were hurtful. They said, “That must be hugely frustrating!” And “we can get up and walk out if you want.” That waitress made false assumptions about me based on my outward appearance, and then she added insult to injury when she did not handle the truth well.

Earlier in the day, I had gone out to eat for lunch with an amazing woman with low vision whom I had gotten to meet on the trip, and when we were ordering, she asked the cashier and me and another person from our group to describe a lot of things. Even though she had her cane with her, the man was confused as to why she was asking so many questions (because she could not read the menu). Eventually, he asked about that, but he addressed me rather than her, “she can’t see?” He ought to have addressed the question to her directly and respected her as person who was present.

I have hurt others too. We are all human. Even with the best intentions, we all make mistakes. But in spite of that, it is important to keep learning how to love others better.

I am a beautiful, petite woman. My worth is secure in belonging to God who created me to be just who I am. But even though I love and respect myself and know who I really am, it is still hurtful every time I am mistreated and misunderstood by others. I feel deeply. I hurt deeply. Sometimes I wish I did not feel so much, so I could not be hurt so much. But then I remember that, because I feel so deeply I am able to empathize with others and love them more deeply. 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 says:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

I know that every time I am hurt, I can go to God for comfort and healing. And from my numerous hurtful and frustrating experiences with looking young for my age, where I have been disrespected and belittled, I am constantly reminded to take everyone seriously and to treat them with respect (no matter how young or old they are or what my initial impression of them may be). Every single person wants to be respected, loved, accepted, and known for who they really are. Every person is created in the image of God and has inherent value and worth. It is good for us to continually grow in empathy and understanding and in love and respect and perspective.

 

Closing Thoughts on This Semester

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As this semester of Library and Information Science school comes to a close, I am so glad for everything that I have learned, and so thirsty to learn more, so that I can serve others well. Right now, as of yet, I do not have any big visions for how I can use all this information, and sometimes I sell myself short because of that. But I realize that we all have different gifts and different callings. I am glad for others who already seem to have great passion and vision. And I know that I too want to use all that I am learning for the good of others (even though I am not sure yet precisely how I will apply it). I know that what I have learned is already working for good in my life. It has expanded my own perspective and that it has made me begin to notice more and to appreciate more about the people around me. I am even more aware that each person is a living story and that every life is precious and unique. I want to build friendships, serve, respect, and love others well. I will not ever live perfectly, and I will always be in a process of making mistakes and growing for the better with God’s help, but what a wonderful journey. I am thankful and excited to be on this journey with some incredible companions. Together, with shared passion, enthusiasm, and purpose we can have a greater impact for good, in making libraries more accessible to all and beyond.

I would like to close with some great quotes from Mother Teresa, someone whose life has inspired me in how she reached out to others on a daily basis. I want to grow in that.

Mother Teresa quotes:

Do not think that love in order to be genuine has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired. Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”

“I would rather make mistakes in kindness and compassion than work miracles in unkindness and hardness.”

“Spread the love of God through your life but only use words when necessary.”

“Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.”

“I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.”

“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”

“Everytime you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.

Resources on Universal Access and Design

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Here is a great article from the University of Washington: “Universal Access: Making Library Resources Accessible to People with Disabilities” (https://www.washington.edu/doit/UA/PRESENT/libres.html) That article states that:

Universal design means that, rather than design your services and facility for the average user, you design them for people with a broad range of abilities and disabilities. Keep in mind that patrons may have learning disabilities and visual, speech, hearing, and mobility impairments.

Although a library cannot be expected to have specialized equipment for every type of disability, staff should be aware of the options for making library resources accessible and should make available equipment that they can anticipate will be used or is available at relatively low cost. In addition, develop a procedure to ensure a quick response to requests for accommodations to meet the needs of patrons with disabilities.

That article goes on to mention many other helpful tips.

Along with that, here is another related report entitled Universal Access in Libraries about making libraries more accessible that covers many important aspects. (http://www.librisdesign.org/docs/UniversalAccessLibraries.pdf)

And lastly, here is a short video about relating universal access to the web: Tech Ability: Making the Web Work for Disabled Surfer (http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/tech/Tech_Ability__Making_the_Web_Work_for_Disabled_Surfers_Bay_Area.html)

There are many ways that libraries and other companies can work to improve universal access and benefit those in their communities.

 

 

Local Library Outreach to Aging and Disability Populations

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In looking into the options available in the Greater Lansing area, I found that the local public library system, the Capital Area District Library, has a few events specifically designated for seniors at various branches, such an informational event to learn about Medicare and how to help fight fraud, a senior book group that meets at a local senior center, an informational event covering “tips on how to choose a nursing home, how to recognize and report resident abuse and neglect, and how to keep loved ones safe”, and also outreach into the community by having books available for checkout during a senior lunch at the town hall. And there are many more events for adults in general that seniors may want to attend like book groups, writing groups, craft programs, visiting authors, informational events, computer classes, and more.

ALA has a resource on Keys to Engaging Older Adults @ Your Library (http://www.ala.org/offices/sites/ala.org.offices/files/content/olos/toolkits/olderadults/oat.sequential.pdf)

Currently, my local library does not have programs specifically for those with disabilities, but perhaps, in the future, more resource guides, programs, guest speakers, and services could be provided.

ASCLA (The Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies) has a wealth of resources related to serving specialized populations including some Library Accessibility Tipsheets.

No doubt, an interest in serving diverse populations will continue to grow and that is an exciting thing.

Overcoming the Digital Divide

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What is the Digital Divide? I believe that a divide is anything that makes someone feel alienated, left out, left behind, separated, inadequate, confused, overwhelmed, and unable to participate in something that could be beneficial to them. It can also be caused by a lack of awareness or by lack of opportunities to learn about resources that could be of benefit.

The digital divide can occur with aging populations who did not grow up with technology and also those with disabilities who may be unable to use technology in the standard way. I think it is important to note that everyone experiences the digital divide in some way. The continuous and rapid technology changes can be overwhelming for anyone, and no one, no matter how tech savvy, knows absolutely everything there is to know about technology and all the related resources that are out there. And that is okay. It is important, however, for people to learn about and be aware of areas of technology of individual interest and areas that may be of great benefit in improving their quality of life.

Practically everyone can benefit in some way from technology in daily life. The Internet is a great resource for looking up information on businesses, phone numbers, travel arrangements, and a whole world wide web of topics. Even learning some general technology skills like web searching could be of great benefit to aging populations. Technology can also allow people to communicate and stay in touch with loved ones. Also, there is a whole host of assistive technology that can make access to resources available to those with all sorts of disabilities. Technology like that can break down barriers in libraries and other places to make them truly more accessible to all. I would like to continually learn more about what resources are available, and as a future librarian, how I can reach out to various people on an individual basis to help them gain access to beneficial information in a format that is accessible to them.