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posted: 12/7/2012 1:47 PM

Itasca launching program for visually impaired readers

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The Itasca Community Library is launching a program to reach out to residents with impaired vision.

"There's More Than One Way to Read a Book" is an initiative that will include purchasing news materials to help vision-impaired residents to read.

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Library Director Betsy Adamowski said at least one staff member will be trained as a "vision expert" to help residents learn to use materials such as hand-held electronic magnifiers.

The Itasca Lions Club donated more than $10,500 for the project at the library's request, and Adamowski said it will completely fund the initiative.

Itasca Lions President Tom Kryger said the program is the perfect fit for Lions Clubs International, which focuses on charities with a specific aim toward helping the visually impaired.

"We love helping the Boy Scouts and other causes, but it couldn't fit in any better with what the Lions are supposed to be doing," Kryger said. "The community gives us all this money through Itasca Fest and it's all about giving back. It was a no-brainer."

Other equipment purchased for the program includes iPads; machines with optical character recognition, which can read text back to the user from letters, prescription bottles and more; and an adapter that attaches to a computer and can alter the monitor's fonts, colors and magnification.

As part of the program, the library will create a support group for people with vision impairments or other physical disabilities that prevent them from holding a book, as well as their caregivers.

In addition, the library plans to establish partnerships with hospitals and doctors, so they can refer patients to the Itasca library's program.

"My staff and I are trying to learn as much as we can so we can be a resource," Adamowski said. "If someone has an impairment, we can say 'You might want to try this' or direct you to where you can go for resources. Or they might try a piece of equipment here that's expensive and see whether it's helpful before they invest. I like to think we will be the first step."

Kryger said he hopes Lions Clubs in other communities will see an effective program in Itasca and follow suit in their towns.

The equipment should be purchased by the end of the month, but Adamowski said library staff still must train to use it, and rearrange some parts of the library to provide privacy for users.

She said the program should be officially under way by March.

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