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Marie Johnson

Regaining Independence at the Library

More than ever, San Diegans rely on libraries for free and equal access to technology and information. Usage of San Diego Public Library resources is at an all-time high.

Nowhere is this need more apparent than at the Central Library’s I Can! Center, which provides specialized services for those with disabilities. Many of these patrons cannot use standard computers or books. They rely on the library to stay in contact with friends and family and to obtain needed social services.

Marie Johnson using special Library equipment that allows her to use the Internet.

The Center’s large-print books and magazines, talking machines, Braille books, print magnification technology and computers are an essential lifeline for those with low visibility or developmental, mobility and learning disabilities.

For Marie Antoinette Johnson, a veteran who recently became homeless, I Can! opened a whole new world: the Internet. Marie lost much of her eyesight six years ago and came to the library to use a computer for the first time. She was unable to read the screen and staff directed her to the I Can! Center and its computers designed especially for the visually impaired.

“I just love this new technology,” said Marie. She has successfully used the library’s computers and services to apply for affordable housing and connect with other disability services in the area. “It makes it possible for me to go online, enter the real world and communicate with people. It means so much that I can now read what I am looking at.”

Leslie Simmons, Disability Services Librarian, has also witnessed the increased demand for the I Can! Center, as patrons are less able to afford specialized equipment and software. “The Center is busier than ever and has become more of a vital part of many patrons’ lives. Without it, many would have no way to use the telephone, read a newspaper or send an email,” said Leslie.

“At the library, we touch lives each and every day,” says Leslie. “We are one of the only local organizations that provide all of these services for free. Patrons continually come up to me grateful for the independence they have gained through the I Can! Center.”

In addition to the Central Library’s ICan! Center, each branch library offers select services for patrons with disabilities.