When Reading Becomes Challenging

I am a bibliophile. Always have been. Therefore, not being able to read extended amounts of text has been rough. Actually, one of the first, real pieces of evidence I had that my life was significantly changed was not being able to finish the last 30 pages of a mystery novel.

National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

Fortunately for all of us who love a good read, there is a palatable, if not perfect, alternative. What I am speaking of is the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.

Who they are

A federal service, the National Library Service was established in 1931 to serve blind adults. The program was extended to include children in 1952 and expanded again in 1966 to include other handicapping issues.

What they do

Books and periodicals are made available in Braille, e-braille and digital audio format. Although NLS provides specialized tape players, that can be used exclusively with their tapes, I like their BARD downloads. BARD stands for Braille and Audio Reading Download. If you are qualified for services as a legally blind individual, you will be able to download books onto your computer or tablet and listen to them there.

The selection of books available to NLS members numbers in the hundreds of thousands of volumes. And even better, in recent months the United States joined the Marrakesh Treaty. This treaty allows us to access materials from 50 treaty member nations. How is that for a variety?

Where they are

NLS libraries for the Blind and Physically Handicapped are all over the place. There are 55 regional libraries and 26 subregional libraries. Many of these libraries contain specialized equipment such as Braille readers and writers that are for public use.

The National Library Service app

Even if you don’t live near a library, there are other ways of getting the reading material you want. As I previously said, once you qualify, NLS will send you a specialized player and tapes. I found that, since the tapes are in finite supply, I would end up with some pretty “different” substitutions for the titles I had requested. I found it better to download the app which is available in both the App Store and Google Play. Once I had that, I had thousands of options literally at my fingertips.

If you prefer magazines to books, NLS currently offers 47 audio and 39 Braille magazine titles. I am still trying to figure out the allure of Playboy in Braille but, hey, NLS offers it!

You must be legally blind to qualify

Understand there are certain qualifications and limitations to be part of the NLS Blind and Physically Handicapped family. Basically, you must be blind or physically impaired in such a way as to cause a handicap in communication, in this case reading and writing. Most of you in this forum will need to be legally blind to qualify. This is one of those places that “the letter” I talked about before comes in handy. Once you have your proof of impairment you will be able to complete the application either online or to send snail mail.

How to apply

I am sure the lovely people at Health Union will be happy to provide you with a link to the proper webpage right HERE!

Once you apply and are accepted, you will be able to download the app from the appropriate store, enter your user name and password (if using BARD which I recommend) and go to town.

Happy reading!

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