Author:Akerele, Johnson Ayodeji

Background to the Study

Chima and Eskay (2013) described Persons With Hearing Impairment, PWHI, as all types of hearing defects, ranging from slight loss to profound deafness. They include the deaf (those that cannot perceive any sound), hard of hearing (those whose sense of hearing, while deficient, is still somewhat functional since they can comprehend speech to some extent), congenitally deaf (those who are born with profound deafness), adventitiously deaf (those who loss hearing later after infancy), pre-lingual deafness (those who loss hearing before acquisition of language; usually before three years of age) and post-lingual deafness (those who loss hearing long after acquisition of language).

Persons With Hearing Impairment in Nigeria has been relegated to the background in the area of information dissemination in the sense that there is no clear cut policy which spell out how they can be integrated into the society through reasonable availability and access to information especially in public libraries. This has consequently reduced a larger percentage of them to street urchins and illiterates; who have very little to contribute to national development. However, in developed nations, well informed PWHI commonly make impact in governance, sport, businesses, economy and politics. They communicate very well and usually offer constructive criticism even better than able bodied ones. This is not unconnected with utilisation of public information resources and services.

Statistics have shown that more than 70,000 Nigerians suffer hearing impairment, nearly 7000 of them are of school age and 10% are between six and 18 years old (Deaf Statistics, 2010). Many of the public libraries and integrated schools lack state-of-the-art teaching and learning technologies such as electronic blackboard, multimedia projectors, CART, induction loops, hearing aids, captioned telephones and other indispensable information resources of PLWHI. Meretighan (2007) stated that in Igbo land, South Eastern part of Nigeria, the word deaf means "cursed by the devil." According to the Excellence and Education Network (2016), out of the 36 states in Nigeria only 13 have schools for the deaf. These indicate the height of neglect and negative perception towards PWHI. Nweze (2013) affirmed that nearly 16.8 million deaf, about 10 per cent of the Nigerian population, lives in anguish, facing uncertain economic and social future. He explained that as adults, the victims suffer discrimination and social exclusion because of difficulties in communication, while as children, 90 per cent of them are excluded from school for the same reason.

A pilot study in this area of research revealed that hardly can one find a public library in Nigeria that integrate fully, services to PWHI as part of its activities. This is contrary to the provisions of the International Federation of Library Association (IFLA) (of which Nigerian Library Association is an affiliate) which states that adequate provisions should be made in libraries for PWHI in respect of personnel, communications, collections services and marketing (IFLA, 2000). The situation is so appalling to the extent that PWHI rarely visit such libraries since they are of the opinion that they were not taken into consideration in the process of library collections development. This implies that they have been cut off from information dissemination and their right to information is grossly abused.

Persons With Hearing Impairment have been found to possess potentials of which if well harnessed could significantly impact the nation's development (Hall, 2005 and Vogel, 2005). However, these set of people have been grossly relegated to the background due to the inability of librarians and other educational stakeholders to put in place relevant information resources (electronic board, multimedia projectors, CART, induction loops, hearing aids, captioned telephones, closed caption reader) and services that would ensure that they are well informed and adequately fit for Nigerian developmental project. Some of these services include teaching library use skill, reading culture promotion, information dissemination, Internet services, curriculum development, loan services, and organising activities such as book club, author visit, story time, literary debate and so on. Only a clear cut policy on service delivery to PWHI can make the aforementioned services to have significant effects on them.

Mehta (2010) described service delivery as a process that involves effective communication, building strong relationship, identifying problems, providing solutions, sound planning and all round the clock support with the sole aim of ensuring that the goals of the organisation are met. This implies that any organisation that does not take this process seriously is bound to lose patrons. Therefore, Nigerian public libraries and libraries in the schools of the deaf, as organisations, should have good service delivery as its watch word. This will in the long run assist in making information available timely to the PWHI, enhance their information literacy level and make them more useful to themselves, their immediate society, the country and the world at large.

Previous studies on library services delivery concentrated largely on persons without disabilities (Egunjobi, 2011), but have not adequately investigated factors such as funding, communication and marketing, which are likely hindrances to the people with special needs, especially, PWHI, that want to maximise the benefits of using library. For instance, hardly can one find researches on availability, accessibility and use of resources such as assistive listening system, closed caption television decoders, sign language and oral interpreters, computer-assisted real time captioning and visible warning signals. This has further integrated those with physical challenges into the clime of social exclusion thereby preventing them from discovering and maximising their potentials.

A very germane factor while considering factors affecting library services to PWHI is funding. A library has to be well funded before all necessary information needs could be procured. Even though there is likely hood that librarians would love to acquire materials mostly for unchallenged readers, pretending as if PWHI do not exist, but where there is a clear policy that makes money available and state the certain percentage or portion that should be used to procure materials for PWHI, they (librarians) fall in line. The complaint has been, there are insufficient fund for libraries at all levels.

Fund should be adequately made available to libraries by government at all levels in order to fulfil their own part of social contract with the citizen. This is so because the library service is one of the social services to the community. Fund is needed to procure materials to all categories of people (challenged or unchallenged), and maintenance of staff, facilities and services. Walking through Nigerian streets opens our eyes to neglected libraries here and there. Many are dilapidated, not painted, some have been turned to archives, while large population of them only perform reading services. Staff often complain of insufficient fund to organise activities and procure facilities. Hardly can one find a library that has unit for PWHI or other disabilities.

The only library in Nigeria that seems not to face the aforementioned challenges is the academic library. This is sequel to the fact that there is a standing order being monitored by the Nigerian University Commission (NUC) that 5% of every university or academic institution recurrent budget should be for the library. Besides, the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFund, usually makes fund available to academic library. Upon this, these funds are still not enough just as the academic libraries are not mandated to vote certain portion for information needs of the disabled.

Library's main source of funding is from the government. Unfortunately the prevailing economic challenges has made salary payment difficult and has grossly reduced social services which therefore call for a pragmatic steps on the side of library managers to ensure that funds are realised from alternative sources such as overdue fines, photocopying, binding, registration, endowment and foundation. If these sources are well harnessed there is the possibility of enough funds on ground to create effective communication system that will carter for the people with or without disabilities.

Chima and Eskay (2013) noted that, to ameliorate communication barrier in a library and enhance serve delivery to the deaf, a librarian should be trained on art of communication with the deaf, a text telephone should be available at service points (circulation and reference desks) and provisions should be made for communication aids such as assistive listening system, closed caption television decoders, sign language and oral interpreters, and computer-assisted real time captioning. In addition to these is the installation of visible warning signals in order to alert deaf clientele to problems and emergencies. Observation shows that these resources are rarely available in public libraries which claim to be the university of the people.

This has generally frustrated the PWHI and has made them to have a feeling that they have been socially excluded from the society. Apart, in spite of huge money from TETFund to academic libraries, observation shows that communication resources with PWHI are rarely available in their service points. Ifidon and Ugwuanyi (2015) explained that without effective communication, information dissemination would be seriously hampered in libraries as communication would be distorted. Besides, communication usually has positive and significant correlation with staff performances in organisation. Therefore, since library is a work place emphasis should be well placed on effective...

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