There have been many visitors to the ATC that have made the remark, “Every library should have an Assistive Technology Center.” We agree. However, in the state of Kansas, the ATC is a unique public library service. One-on-one training is the foundation along with access to adaptive software and hardware. So, how did the ATC get its start at the library?
In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law by President George H. W. Bush. The ADA prohibits discrimination based on a disability in employment, State and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications. In a desire to comply with the ADA, the Manhattan Public Library formed an Advisory Committee in 1992 to investigate the barriers confronting people with disabilities in regards to library service. The topics of discussion were physical barriers, policy development, service enhancement, and community information.
The need for access to technology and the internet was apparent to committee members and community leaders. Several community entities came together and formed a partnership under the umbrella of Community Online Resources Exchange (CORE.) Around the same time, Manhattan Public Library received monies from the Gates Foundation to purchase computers and equipment. This was the start of the Technology Center as we know it today. There are three components of the Technology Center; the classroom provides businesses and organizations a space for instructional purposes, the public access area provides computers for general use, and the ATC provides access to technology for those with disabilities.
In the beginning, there was much discussion about whether or not training should be a part of the service. It was argued that access to the equipment was the essential element. However, over the years it has been proven that the training is the core of the service. Most of the customers who utilize the ATC are looking for information before they make a purchase and not just the opportunity to access a computer. The training provides the customer the information and practice needed to make an informed purchase.
The Manhattan Public Library has always made a concerted effort to provide library services to the whole of the community. The ATC is a part of that effort.