As part of the accessible communities package to support the National Disability Strategy, the Australian Government provided one-off funding of $1 million in 2010 for the Increasing Accessibility Library Initiative (Library Initiative) for the provision of playback devices. The objective was to improve access to print material in a digital format for people with print disability at selected public libraries across Australia.
The Library Initiative received overwhelming support from libraries that participated and reported many success stories from patrons who were re-engaged with reading and reconnected to the community.
The Library Initiative has been successfully implemented by the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA). Audio-Read and Vision Australia were selected as the playback device suppliers. The Library Initiative:
- provided 1,299 playback devices (985 Daisy Players (Plextalks) (Vision Australia product) and 314 Navigators (Audio-Read product)) to over 170 libraries (and their outlets);
- delivered $18,000 worth of digital content for the playback devices;
- covered a broad geographical spread and provided playback devices across metropolitan (49 per cent), regional (22 per cent), and rural and remote Australia (29 per cent); and
- trained 1,248 library staff and volunteers to use the playback devices.
Between May 2011 and March 2012, 1,345 library patrons identified that they participated in the Library Initiative. During this time playback devices were lent a total of 1,473 times which reflects that most loans had been for long term lending periods.
Of the 432 patrons surveyed regarding their participation in the Library Initiative:
- 98.8 per cent reported that the playback devices improved their access to print material; and
- 94.7 per cent were satisfied with the playback devices they utilised.
In February 2011, ALIA invited all public libraries in Australia to submit an Expression of Interest to participate in the Library Initiative. A total
of 72 responses were received (including consolidated applications from South Australia and Queensland). Libraries were asked to select which playback device they would like.
When allocating playback devices to libraries ALIA considered:
- those that did not have access to playback devices;
- the ability to obtain a broad geographical spread across all states and territories;
- those that had an existing program for inclusion for people with disability; and
- their ability to support and use the playback devices effectively.
Training was organised between libraries and Audio-Read and Vision Australia and provided library staff and volunteers with the focus of:
- maintaining equipment and resetting systems if required;
- downloading content to the playback devices;
- instructing users in the functions provided by the playback devices; and
- using the support services provided by the suppliers, if required.
Libraries found the training of high quality and relevant.
Playback device content
The Library Initiative delivered $18,000 worth of content. Content was ordered direct from suppliers which included audio books in CD form and subscriptions to downloadable content. A range of suppliers including Bolinda, Ulverstone, Southern Star, Vision Australia and Audio-Read were chosen by the libraries.