Library accessibility questioned

Student voices were heard in a capstone presentation on Friday, July 26. The spring term’s capstone was titled “Opening Doors: Equity, the Library and Learning.”

The class of eleven students investigated the Millar Library’s accommodations for students with learning disabilities.

“Our job was to assess the library to see what areas need improvement for people with learning disabilities,” said Alexis Jewell, a student enrolled in the course and the speaker at the presentation.

The presentation discussed what the class did and discovered. Judy Patton, director for University Studies, Elizabeth Howell, business administration librarian and Rebecca Black, capstone course instructor were in attendance for the presentation.

Jewell began by pointing out that the term “learning differences” was more suitable than “learning disabilities.”

The description of the course stated the students would form a research team to identify strategies for researching in the library and find a way to guide people with learning differences in effectively using the library. The student team members were to develop models for making the library more accessible and to create a resource manual from these models.

Black said the class did more than what was expected. The class wrote a brochure for the library and a research paper indicating what changes should be made.

Some of those suggestions were regarding using pictures and bigger text on the library’s website and including pictures on the signage in the library. The students also suggested a monthly meeting for students with learning differences to allow those students the opportunity to speak in an open forum about accessibility needs.

Jewell said that the students main concerns were the use of assisted computer programs.

Many of these concerns have been addressed during the recent remodel of the library Howell said. She also said that the brochure the class made will be used in some capacity in the library to help assist students.

Using national statistics, Black extrapolated that in a population of Portland State University’s size there should be around 2,550 people with learning differences at the university. Currently only 93 people are registered with Counseling and Psychological Services as having a learning difference.

Black said the people are probably here at the university, but they probably will not get disability services.

“Disabilities examines the inequalities in society. Society is set up for the majority. If you don’t fit into that you are seen as disabled,” Jewell said.

She added the library is setting precedence at PSU on how to help students with learning differences

Black would like to look at accessibility issues in other parts of the campus such as the financial aid office, the career center and in university studies classrooms.

Patton said all the capstone courses at Portland State are involved in both theoretical and practical applications.

“It is a wonderful program,” Patton said. “It is amazing what our students do in the community.”

For people interested in finding out more about learning differences Jewell will be co-teaching a course this fall with Jim Jackson titled “Intro to disAbility Studies.”