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Cloud-based Accessibility in Libraries (and Everywhere Else!)

Last Updated on November 30, 2020, 3:03 pm ET

A new initiative, the Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure (GPII) is designed to offer libraries a better way to serve all patrons equally, including those with disabilities and unique technology preferences.

The diversity of people with disabilities (including all of the different types, degrees, and combinations of disabilities) raises the cost to secure all of the technologies needed to address those disabilities beyond the means of most libraries. Even if the technologies were available and affordable, most library staff cannot be expected to be assistive technology experts able to set-up, explain, and select assistive technology solutions to patrons with disabilities.

The GPII is designed to address these cost and expertise problems. GPII lets users explore and select the accessibility features they need, and create a cloud-based personal profile, which can be accessed on any device they want to use, making their preferred interface features the default setting on a public computer terminal or a bank machine. GPII users will arrive at the library with a way to call up their profiles on public terminals, reducing the need for staff assistance.

Regarding cost, most assistive technology (AT) vendors participating in the GPII are planning to charge based on usage, meaning that instead of purchasing a full license, your library would only be charged for the hours the AT product is actually being used. The GPII vendor infrastructure is designed to make it easier to manage these licenses, and possibly “piggyback” on AT licenses paid for by public agencies that serve your patrons, such as state commissions for the blind.

The GPII follows wherever the user travels. This provides a personalized interface experience at home via a TV set-top box, at school or work on a public computer, at the store via a point-of-sale terminal, and even on a voting machine. This idea has the power to radically transform the concept of technological inclusion. You can view an introductory animation about the GPII on the Raising the Floor Consortium’s YouTube channel.

Project Status

The GPII project was launched in 2011 by the Raising the Floor (RtF) Consortium, with the participation of more than 100 academic, industry, and non-governmental organizations and individuals in 17 countries, and with funding from the US, Canada, and the European Commission.

Libraries—The First Proving Ground

The most recent funding for the GPII—from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR)—is focused on the first real-world implementation—in libraries. The Library GPII System (LGS) project is based on extensive research and interviews over the past two years, to ensure that the LGS is tailored to the needs and ecosystems of libraries. For example, network security is important to libraries, and libraries are not always free to install software or permit the kinds of back-end communications required by the GPII due to security concerns. We at GPII are working with security companies and network managers to understand how we can solve this problem.

We have recruited seven development partners, at four public libraries, two university libraries, and one public archives: University of Wisconsin-Madison; University of Michigan; Canadian Museum of Human Rights; San Francisco Public Library; Teton County, Wyoming Public Library; District of Columbia Public Library; and the Free Library of Philadelphia. We distributed LGS 1.0 to these partners in April 2015, and are currently translating their testing results and informal feedback into development specifications for version 2.0, scheduled to be implemented this fall. Two more development-and-review cycles are planned.

Beginning in late 2016, we will open LGS to a wider library community for testing and evaluation purposes. If you are interested in participating in any way, or want more information, we would be glad to hear from you at libraries@raisingthefloor.org.