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Linrary caters to needs of visually, physically impaired

February 10, 2010 - Oxford resident Marsha Katona is on a mission to make everyone aware of great resource that unfortunately doesn't get much publicity.

It's called the Oakland County Library for the Visually and Physically Impaired and she's been using it for about 40 years now.

"They have everything," said Katona, who's been legally blind since birth. "I just think it's a wonderful service."

Located at 1200 N. Telegraph Rd. in Pontiac, the library offers books and magazines on cassette and in braille, large print books and descriptive videos.

"They have everything Ė fiction, nonfiction, a whole children's series, lots of books for seniors. They have almost any book," said Katona, who enjoys both large print and braille reading materials as well as those on tape.

Best of all, the collection is kept up-to-date, so users can stay in touch with the latest literary trends.

For instance, according to Katona, a visually-impaired teen who wants to read the "Twilight" books, a wildly popular series of vampire novels, can find them at the library.

"They keep up with what's new out there," she said.

The library also provides all the necessary equipment and accessories to use its materials such as cassette players, headphones, amplifiers, pillow speakers, breath switches and remote controls.

All materials and services are provided free of charge to people who have been certified by a competent authority as legally blind, visually handicapped, physically handicapped, deaf and blind, or as having a physically-based reading disability.

Those who can't travel to the library can still utilize its many services via the U.S. Post Office. Materials and equipment are sent back and forth through the mail free of charge when they're marked "free matter for the blind."

"You don't have to rely on someone getting you to the library," said Katona, who's a member of the Oxford Lions Club. "They don't have to leave their home."

Although if someone does want a ride down there, they can always do what Katona does, call the North Oakland Transportation Authority and travel to Pontiac in the comfort of a mini-bus or van.

Katona's been utilizing the library since her high school days. These days she teaches a class there once a week for visually-impaired people to learn how to use a screen reader called JAWS (Job Access with Speech).

JAWS is a software program that makes computers using Microsoft Windows accessible to blind and visually-impaired folks.

It accomplishes this with a text-to-speech system that converts the normal language that appears on a computer screen into speech. It also allows users to create custom commands to make keyboard interaction easier and faster.

For more information about the Oakland County Library for the Visually and Physically Impaired, visit www.oakgov.com/lvpi.

The library can be reached by calling 1-800-774-4542 or (248) 858-5050. The e-mail address is lvpi@oakgov.com.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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