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Computer-based Assistive Technology: FAQ

What computer-based assistive technology does the library provide?

SFPL provides computer workstations to help make online information and print materials more accessible to persons who are blind, have learning differences (such as dyslexia and attention deficit disorder [ADD]), have low vision, or have disabilities that affect their mobility or dexterity. Patrons can magnify the computer screen, have the contents of a computer screen read aloud, scan in materials to be read aloud or printed out, and use voice commands for word processing. The following list describes SFPL's assistive technology software in more detail.

Magnification

Software designed specifically for users with low vision: ZoomText Magnifier/Reader magnifies text and reads text aloud. Individual users can change print size, color, font style and background color.

Screen to Speech

Software for users who are blind or have low vision: JAWS enables users to hear text that appears on the computer screen, whether from the online catalog, the Internet or documents created in Microsoft Word or Excel.

Text to Speech

Software for people with reading disabilities: Kurzweil 3000 scans print material (including text & pictures), converts text to speech, highlights the text and reads it out loud. This computer program has the ability to read from a graphical Internet browser and includes a built-in dictionary with pronunciations. Read & Write speaks text as it is being typed, performs real-time spell checking, can suggest phonetically close spellings, will automatically correct words and provides automatic word prediction. WYNN Wizard scans print material, converts text to speech, highlights the text and reads it out loud. Software for people who are blind, have low vision, or have learning differences: Open Book converts -- into speech -- information that has been scanned into the computer. As the computer reads aloud, information is highlighted word-by-word on the screen. VERA (Very Easy Reading Appliance) operates as a stand-alone reading machine. Printed material (English only) is scanned in and then read aloud.

Voice Recognition

Dragon NaturallySpeaking was developed for users unable to effectively use a keyboard: Dragon NaturallySpeaking allows users to enter commands or dictate text by speaking into a microphone. Before learning to use Dragon NaturallySpeaking, users must know how to use Microsoft Windows and any Windows-based program (for example Word or Excel) they will be using.

Where can I find these resources in the library?

At this time, these resources are only available at the Main Library at 100 Larkin Street in Civic Center.

Personal Computers with Assistive Technology

Workstations throughout the building are equipped as follows:

2nd Floor: Library for the Blind and Print Disabled

  • JAWS, Open Book, refreshable braille display with Megadots and embosser, ZoomText Magnifier/Reader and VERA reading station (stand-alone). Internet access, Word, and Excel.

3rd Floor (check in at the Page Desk)

  • AT Room: Inspiration, WYNN, Read & Write, and ZoomText Magnifier/Reader + VERA reading station (stand-alone). Internet access, Word and Excel.
  • Glass Study Room: Dragon Naturally Speaking, Kurzweil 3000, and ZoomText Magnifier/Reader. Internet access, Word, and Excel.

4th Floor (check in at the Page desk)

  • AT Room: JAWS, Open Book, and ZoomText Magnifier/Reader. Internet access, Word and Excel.

5th Floor (check in at the Page Desk)

  • AT Room: Dragon Naturally Speaking, and ZoomText Magnifier/Reader. Internet access, Word, and Excel.

Talking Public Access Terminals

A number of terminals equipped with ZoomText Magnifier/Reader provide access to only the Library's online catalog and reference databases. Staff on each floor of the Main Library can direct you to these terminals:

  • 1st Floor: Deaf Services Center
  • 2nd Floor: Library for the Blind and Print Disabled
  • 3rd Floor: International Center
  • 4th Floor: Art and Music Center
  • 5th Floor: Government Information Center

Who may use these resources?

Anyone may use the talking public access terminals; priority is given to persons with disabilities. The personal computer workstations with assistive technology are restricted to persons with disabilities who have met with a librarian at the Library for the Blind & Print Disabled or the Access Services Manager. Each user must have a valid San Francisco Public Library card. Contact the Library for the Blind & Print Disabled at 557-4253 or the Access Services Manager at 557-4557.

What type of assistance does the library provide for users of computer-based assistive technology?

Staff will show users how to start the computer programs from the menu, how to print, how to scan in documents and will try to help if a problem arises. It is strongly encouraged that users have basic computer skills and familiarity with the keyboard and mouse.

SFPL staff does not provide actual training on how to use these computer programs. Users can learn them on their own, request the assistance of an in-library volunteer or enroll in a training program outside of the library. Staff can provide a list of training resources during your user interview. It is important to note that the level of complexity for each computer program varies. Some, such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking, can require several hours of training. If you are a skilled user and would like to volunteer your time to train other potential users, please contact the Access Services Manager at 557-4557.