Thanks to a donation and collaboration between Gelman Library and Disability Support Services, blind and visually impaired students can now access resources in the library with more ease.
Last month the library held a ribbon cutting ceremony in celebration of its two new assistive technology suites – study rooms that are equipped with speech, scan and read, magnification and voice recognition software that help blind and visually impaired students see text and use other library materials more easily. About 35 students, library staff and faculty attended the ceremony.
“We had a lab for many years, but it was insufficient,” said Christy Willis, director of Disability Support Services. “These rooms allow students with disabilities to be on equal footing with their peers.”
Willis said the donation was offered almost two years ago but the most challenging part of the process was finding a suitable space for the rooms. She said the Gelman Library location is practical for its 24-hour access and proximity to reserve materials.
The Julius Fleischman and Christine Waldvogel Assistive Technology Suites, named in honor of Fleischman’s donation to create the two rooms, will be made available to both disabled and non-disabled students; although currently only students registered with DSS have key – card access to the suites.
Each room cost about $55,000 to construct, which included installation of software and hardware students could likely not afford for private use.
The donor, Julius Fleischman – who is legally blind – already has a scholarship fund in his name set up through the Disability Support Services office, as well as two scholarships through the Law School and several others throughout various departments at GW, totaling eight gifts since 2005.
“These rooms will benefit every blind and visually impaired student at GW now and far into the future,” said Maryanne Ogunbolu, a spokeswoman for Gelman Library.