Efficacy of assistive technology on the visually impaired learners’ grasping of library information resources: a case of Zambia library, cultural and skills centre for the visually impaired (zlcscvi) in Lusaka, Zambia

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Kaulu, Janet
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The University of Zambia
The objectives were to: Identify the nature of assistive technology available for persons with visual impairment at Zambia Library, Cultural and Skills Centre for the Visually Impaired (ZLCSCVI), Establish the useful library information resources accessed by persons with visual impairment at ZLCSCVI using the available assistive technology, Assess the ease with which persons with visual impairment access the library information resources at ZLCSCVI using the available assistive technology and Assess the efficacy of assistive technology in grasping library information resources by visually impaired persons at ZLCSCVI. The sample size consisted of 17 visually impaired learners and 3 instructors of technology. A mixed-methods approach was employed to investigate the issues involved. Consequently, the concurrent nested strategy was used to mix qualitative and quantitative methods, with the former methods being dominant and thus guiding the study. The Case study design was used for data collection and analysis. Data were captured using: an item checklist, Instructor’s questionnaire, Focus Group Discussion guide and an observation schedule. Qualitative data were analysed using themes while Quantitative data were analysed using modes and percentages. The study revealed several Assistive technologies available for visually impaired learners at ZLCSCVI. The most popular one was Job Access with Speech (JAWS), followed by Non-Visual Desktop Access (NVDA) which enabled learners to hear through the speakers what had been displayed on the screen. These technologies helped the learners to access useful library information resources such as e-books, PDF documents, Websites, simulations, e-mail, WhatsApp, Music etc. Though there were few challenges in using the Technologies, the study revealed that they were easy to use by the majority of learners. Finally, all the respondents agreed that JAWS and NVDA helped the visually impaired learners to perform like their sighted peers when the assistive technologies were used well and consistently as a supplement to traditional instruction. The findings implied that pedagogical strategies used by instructors of the visually impaired learners should include suitable assistive technologies such as JAWS and NVDA in order to help the VI learners perform like sighted peers. From the results it was concluded that the main assistive technologies used by the visually impaired learners at ZLCSCVI were JAWS and NVDA. These technologies enabled learners to access academic materials like books and non-academic materials from storage media and the internet. Furthermore, they were easy to use and had high efficacy. In view of the above conclusions the following recommendations were made: Government should consider procuring assistive technology, particularly JAWS, for schools and colleges for persons with visual impairments in Zambia. All teachers of the persons with visual impairments should undergo training in the use of JAWS so that they, in turn, they can assist their learners in the use of such technologies to enable them perform better academically and socially. Keywords: Efficacy, Assistive technology, Visually Impaired and Library information resources.
Assistive technology--Visually impaired--Zambia