The OCALI Lending Library: Connecting People with Disabilities with Accessible Materials, Resources, and Technology to Promote Lifelong Learning

Libraries are a valuable resource for sharing and connecting people and communities with free information and resources. Like a traditional library, the OCALI Lending Library offers thousands of free materials, resources, and technology on a range of topics—from transition to social-emotional development, evidence-based practices, and more that are applicable to various disabilities and for all ages—from early childhood to adulthood.

“We offer Ohioans an extensive collection of free books, videos, assistive technology devices, assessment tools, and other resources that are available to borrow on a short or long-term basis and shipped directly at no charge,” explains Samantha Brown, OCALI Clearinghouse Librarian

The OCALI Lending Library collects and shares accessible educational and professional development materials and resources.

colored banner with Lending Library logo
The OCALI Lending Library collects and shares accessible educational and professional development materials and resources.

Ensuring the Right Fit for the Right User

Assistive technology, or AT, is anything that helps a person with a disability do what they want to do. It can help a person become more independent. AT can help in the home, at school, at work, and in the community. The OCALI Lending Library offers Ohioans the opportunity to try out assistive technology before purchasing it, which helps to ensure the right fit for the user. Examples of assistive technologies include communication devices, adapted writing utensils, specialized calculators, switches, sensory processing supports, braille writers, magnifiers, text-to-speech, speech-to-text software, and more.

“Having the opportunity to try out an AT device before purchasing it is a game changer for many school districts,” shares Jan Rogers, Program Director at the Assistive Technology & Accessible Educational Materials (AT&AEM) Center. “Sometimes a district may not be convinced that a student needs a specific piece of equipment. With our lending program, districts have the opportunity to try something out before making an investment, which often opens up opportunities that districts may not have otherwise considered.”

Understanding what resources are available, how to reserve them, and how to use them is important. “Having a knowledgeable librarian, like Samantha, is a wonderful resource to assist people with their needs and questions,” explains Sheila Smith, Senior Director, Research, Quality Assurance, and Program Impact. “We’ve never had a librarian and Sam brings a great perspective to this role and lends a different voice to the library.”

Improving Accessibility

Increasing access to information and resources to ensure opportunities for meaningful participation for people who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind, or visually impaired is a top priority for OCALI, and the Lending Library is no exception. Over the past year, the OCALI Lending Library has improved accessibility by moving its registration process from a downloadable form to an online system.

“We try to make the library as user friendly as possible,” shares Samantha. “Using our online system, materials and resources can be searched by keyword, subject, title, author, series, and more. In addition to books and videos, the library has an array of general assessment tools, as well as specifically-focused tools for behavior, sensory, communication, and more.”

The library also houses specialty collections and resources, including braille versions of practice tests, FM systems for evaluation, and other learning aids that are also available to loan.

Strengthening Relationships

Community outreach and partnerships will be an area of focus for the Lending Library. With Samantha’s extensive background in research, she is committed to understanding what areas of the state are active users of the library and which ones aren’t.

“There are still a lot of people who don’t know that the Lending Library exists and I want to change that,” explains Samantha. “An important part of my job is to promote awareness about the library and the resources we have available. I want to get into the communities that aren’t utilizing our resources, particularly those in rural communities. I’m also interested in developing more partnerships with other lending libraries and establishing inter-library loans. Libraries are a community center and a place to go for information and knowledge.”

Inspiring Change

Inspiring change is part of OCALI’s mission and each Center contributes to that mission in its own way. Samantha shares how the OCALI Lending Library is inspiring change with the people she serves.

“Even though I haven’t worked here that long, I already know the work I’m doing is reaching and helping people. Recently, I had the opportunity to partner with a teacher who is teaching sign language to students with disabilities. I worked with him to figure out the best resources and to connect him to the Outreach Center for Deafness and Blindness. The OCALI Lending Library is the place that houses resources for all of our Centers and I always try to share those resources with others.”

To learn more about the OCALI Lending Library, visit https://www.ocali.org/project/lending_library.