Reading Beyond Sight: Low Vision Resources at the San Antonio Public Library

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Eleven year old Weston Wright enjoys a piece of art in the Low Vision Reading Room at Central Library. Courtesy Photo.

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Many of us take for granted the ability to see because it’s something so natural and so routine in our daily lives. There are many members of our community for whom sight is limited or nonexistent and the natural and routine way of their daily lives is to use other senses to learn and experience information in the world.

Eleven-year-old Weston Wright, who was born blind, reads using Braille. Fluent in Braille since the age of 18 months, Weston has read almost 600 books in his short lifetime. “I like to read because it expands my imagination,” he says. “When someone describes something, I can picture it in my mind because I’ve read so many books.”

Weston was one of many special guests at the opening of the Low Vision Reading Room at Central Library in October of last year. This dedicated space is located in what was once an empty reading nook, tucked away on the 3rd floor near the Children’s area and non-fiction collection at Central Library. Now, thanks to a generous donation from the Semmes Family Foundation and the San Antonio Public Library Foundation, the area has been transformed into an inviting space for special needs families to enjoy the low vision materials and resources for children available.

Patrons of all ages enjoy the Low Vision Reading Room. Courtesy photo.

Patrons of all ages enjoy the Low Vision Reading Room. Courtesy photo.

Books are a map to the human heart, a best friend, a mysterious stranger, an adventure to another place and time and always a chance to learn and experience life in a new way. In essence, they offer a one-of-a-kind experience for everyone. That’s why the San Antonio Public Library is committed to ensuring that the entire San Antonio community has equal and convenient access to the tools and resources that provide information, ignite imagination and spark new ideas that transform individuals at a personal level and shape our world.

The San Antonio Public Library with the Low Vision Reading Room is leading the way in innovative approaches to creating welcoming and accessible libraries. This dedicated space creates community. It is a conversation starter. It is the beginning of a child’s lifelong love affair with literature.

“But it’s not just going to help children, it’s going to help adults too,” explains Weston. “It’s going to help so many people.”

The Low Vision Reading Room is home to juvenile Braille books, juvenile large print, and read alongs- children’s books paired with CDs- as well as a magnifying monitor and an audio listening station. In addition to the physical enhancement of the space, the donation from the Semmes Family Foundation allowed the Library to expand the Braille collection by over 100 titles, and to purchase assistive equipment like Braille readers and magnifying desktops.

A young patron reads information about a piece of art in the Low Vision Reading Room. Courtesy photo.

A young patron reads information about a piece of art in the Low Vision Reading Room. Courtesy photo.

The room is also home to a temporary display of unique works of art from The Color of Blind, an interactive multi-sensory art show designed for the blind and low vision community. First debuting in 2013, The Color of Blind was created by artist Trina Bacon.

“The show allows visually impaired individuals, along with others with special sensory needs or challenges, to better connect with art,” explains Bacon.

During the month of June, the Central Library gallery will host a “best in show” exhibit of some of Color of Blind’s fan favorite pieces. “Everyone should be able to fully experience art. We say ‘Yes- please touch the art!’” The Color of Blind will be free and open to the public during Central Library hours of operation- Monday through Thursday 9 a.m. – 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m through June 30.

The San Antonio Public Library offers an assortment of assistive equipment for all ages for use in the Library or for check out. Closed circuit televisions (CCTVs) are available at a number of library locations and library cardholders can also check out a monomouse, handheld video magnifier that enlarges printed text and images when plugged into a television’s video jack. Each branch location also has a handheld magnifying glass for use while you are in the library. Software is available on dedicated workstations at a number of library locations that allows users to access the Internet, use MS Office products, or listen to printed material through the use of a special scanner, and magnify Internet pages or other computerized content.

Through information, imagination and ideas, the San Antonio Public Library empowers the community with the tools, resources and environment they need to change their lives. We invite you to come learn with us and experience reading in your own unique way at the Library. For more information on the services and resources available, visit mysapl.org or call 210-207-2500.

Top Image: Eleven year old Weston Wright enjoys a piece of art in the Low Vision Reading Room at Central Library. Photo courtesy of The San Antonio Public Library.

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