Public Information Access for Children and Young Adults with Special Needs: A Case of Meru County KNLS Library, Kenya

WANJOHI, Richard (2018) Public Information Access for Children and Young Adults with Special Needs: A Case of Meru County KNLS Library, Kenya. Paper presented at: IFLA WLIC 2018 – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Transform Libraries, Transform Societies in Session S06 - Library Services to People with Special Needs with Libraries for Children and Young Adults. In: Inclusive Library Services for Children and Young Adults, 23 August 2018, Singapore.

Bookmark or cite this item: http://library.ifla.org/id/eprint/2331
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Language: English (Original)
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Abstract

Public Information Access for Children and Young Adults with Special Needs: A Case of Meru County KNLS Library, Kenya

The cardinal mandate of a library is to meet, effectively, the information needs of users. The Kenya National Library Service (KNLS) was established by the Government of Kenya in 1965 and is at the forefront of promoting the right to access of information as stipulated in Chapter 4 of the Constitution and Access to Information Act, 2016. KNLS libraries are funded by taxpayers to facilitate efficient access to information for all citizens, irrespective of age, learning abilities and social or economic class. It is within this background that the needs of children and young people with special needs come into focus. Public libraries are not adequately equipped to ease information access for children with various forms of disability and financial incapacitation. The proliferation of Information Communication Technology (ICT), though, heralds a new dawn for disadvantaged young people. KNLS, Meru Library, has been as the forefront of integrating ICT in promoting information access for autistic and dyslexic children, young girls in rehabilitation centres and secondary school children. Through ICT tools such as Wi-Fi internet, a cybercafé, e-readers and a website called ‘Tunachop’, children and young people with special needs can now access the latest information and learning materials, just like their abled counterparts and other members of the public. Data for the study was collected from 50 individuals; ten each from children with autism, children with dyslexia, girls at Tumaini Rescue Centre and secondary school students. Data from children with dyslexia and those with autism was collected through their teachers using structured interviews, while students in secondary schools and rehabilitation centres offered information through questionnaires. It was established that e-readers, Tunachop, tablets and the cybercafé were critical in addressing information needs of children with special needs. By availing adequate and timely information on a wide range of topics, including academic materials, ICT greatly benefitted this category of library users. Nevertheless, lack of digital skills, inadequacy of ICT equipment and slow internet speed were critical hindrances to information access for children with special needs. It was recommended that KNLS and other public libraries needed to invest in more ICT equipment, broadband internet and digital skills training to promote information access through ICT for children and young people with special needs.

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