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First of all, I'd have some questions.  The first would be, can she read and write 
in Braille?  If so, there are dozens of possibilities for her to help you.  Does 
she use a cane or other type of mobility assistance (dog)?  If so, she can 
certainly be of value in this area. 
Here are a few ideas to help you put your blind student to work in the library:
   *  she can answer the phone and take messages for you---does she use braille? 
(slate & stylus? braille writer?  Braille n speak?)  Her messages for you can be in 
braille--she'll read them to you later.
   *   if you're in an elementary school, she can read a book during storytime for 
your younger students.  You can receive free books in Braille from your state's 
library for the blind and physically handicapped--and she can share those stories 
with the students (many in Twin Vision will also allow her to show the pictures to 
the students after she reads the pages---see the Seedlings website or the National Braille Press for books in twin vision at a 
reasonable price--if you'd like to add them to your library--a great resource AND 
wonderful opportunity to share with the students how the blind read.)
    *  if she uses a cane or dog to get from one place to another, you can teach 
her specific routes to places within the school--secretary's office, teacher's 
classroom, etc. and she can help to deliver items to those areas for you---books, 
papers, etc. (Is there braille on the doors?  Are some areas marked?  If not, give 
her "landmarks" to determine where she is...those are things that DO NOT move 
within the environment...for example, a water fountain on the right-hand side of 
the hallway toward Mrs. Smith's room is a landmark.  Using the water fountain, you 
can tell the student that Mrs. Smith's room is the second door on the right AFTER 
the water fountain.)
    *  Does she use the computer?  Does she have access to special computer 
software for the blind (Jaws for Windows)?  If so, she can help you with specific 
things by using the Internet to locate resources.  If she is capable of using 
specialized programs like Jaws and knows how to create a word document on the 
computer, she can also provide YOU with the information in print format (by either 
sending files to you via email or by saving them on your computer, etc.).
    *  Can she do word processing?  Have her create a list of books that are new to 
the library---something you'd intended to create yourself but haven't had the time. 
 If you have a tape recorder, use your online catalog to create a list of books on 
a specific subject (such as holiday books)---then you record yourself reading 
(clearly) each title and the author's name, then the call number-- she can listen 
to the tape with earphones while she uses the computer to generate a print document 
for you.  (It may take a while to compose this document in print--due to her use of 
one hand, but she would probably enjoy this activity)--watch for spelling 
errors...blind individuals often "hear" words and assume how the word is spelled 
unless they are taught the correct spelling or have read the word in Braille before.
     *  Does she enjoy reading?  What are her favorite books?  Perhaps she is 
knowledgeable of books for children and would be a great resource for 
students---especially if they need to know things like, "Who wrote the book Winnie 
the Pooh?"  Allow her to do things like stamp the date due cards--if you use those 
things and have them pre-stamped with the due date on them for books checked out.
     *  Are you willing to provide her with the opportunity to use Braille labels 
within the library?  If so, she might be able to label specific items behind the 
desk and assist in getting those items for students or teachers.  Drawers can be 
labeled so she will know what the contents might be.
Be sure to ask the program supervisor for any special adaptive equipment that she 
might be able to use--so that she can be more productive for you.  In addition, be 
sure to let her know WHERE everything is--and don't move the furniture too much (I 
was always moving furniture at the School for the Blind--- the kids were great 
sports about it, though!).  Let her "braille" the library---find her way around the 
room.  She'll need to be able to touch many things--so make sure she knows if you 
have a laminator (hot, hot!) and if there are objects that can often cause her to 
fall--backpacks left on the floor, toys or games on the floor, stacks of boxes or 
new arrivals of books left in the way!)  
Above everything else...prepare your students and teachers for her arrival....this 
can be a very traumatic thing for some people who haven't been around or worked 
with handicapped individuals.  Find out what you can about her before she arrives, 
share the important information and then allow her to fill in the gaps when she 
arrives.  Many individuals will be asking questions (some won't, though).  Remember 
to speak to her when you want HER to answer a question--don't ask the supervisor or 
others around her things...for example, don't say, "Does she want anything to 
drink?"  Instead ask her, "Would you like something to drink?"  Remind your 
teachers and students to do the same thing.  Also, remember, she isn't deaf...don't 
yell.  And finally, when you leave the room...let her know that you're going...and 
let her know when you return.  Don't sneak out or leave her without letting her 
I know you aren't ignorant or rude....these are just reminders that I felt I should 
provide.  If you've never worked with the blind or visually impaired, it's a unique 
experience but one that both individuals--you and she--will learn from.
It may take a little adaptation on your part, but if she is capable of using the 
computer, can be trained to independently travel around the school from one area to 
another, and is willing to learn about libraries...this can work!  (I did it for 
ten years with blind high school students---it was ALWAYS the blind students that 
wanted to work in the library....never a visually impaired student! <grin>).
Let me know if you have questions or need more ideas.  I'm playing this "by ear" 
since I don't know what your student is capable of doing.  If you get started and 
find out that she is much more limited, let me know.  I can ALSO give you some 
ideas of how to work with blind and multi-disabled / handicapped students who want 
to work in the library!
(Thanks for sparking some old--but great---memories....<grin>)
~Shonda Brisco
Trinity Valley MS /US Librarian
Fort Worth, TX
(former librarian--Oklahoma School for the Blind)
Shonda Brisco, MLIS
Trinity Valley MS / US Librarian
Trinity Valley School
Fort Worth, TX  76132
817-321-0100 ext. 410
"Those who have the highest expectations for the web in terms of student research, 
are those who work
with it, and students, the least."  -- LM_NET librarian


From: School Library Media & Network Communications on behalf of Michelle Walker
Sent: Thu 11/4/2004 4:48 PM
Subject: [LM_NET] OT: Library Tasks for Blind Student

Hello All-
We have a blind student who is attending a job training program and who
really wants to be placed in the library for a couple of hours a week to
work.  The program supervisor is desperate to find something, anything she
might be able to do, and I would love to find work for this student in the
library but am having trouble coming up with any ideas. The student can
type but has suffered a stroke, so only one hand is really functional and
she has some mobility issues.  She is very intelligent and sweet.  I am
hoping some members of the group will have some creative suggestions of
things I might be able to have her do...thanks so much!

Michelle Walker, Librarian
Hamilton Union High School
Hamilton Union Elementary School
Hamilton City, CA   95951
(530) 826-3261 phone
(530) 826-0440 fax

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