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Books for Blind and Physically Handicapped Individuals


A free national library program of braille and recorded materials for blind and physically handicapped persons is administered by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress. Under a special provision of the U.S. copyright law and with the permission of authors and publishers of works not covered by the provision, NLS selects books and magazines for full-length production in braille and recorded formats. Established by an Act of Congress in 1931 to serve blind adults, the program was expanded in 1952 to include children, in 1962 to provide music materials, and again in 1966 to include individuals with other physical impairments that prevent the reading of regular print. Recorded formats include both digital cartridges and analog cassettes. Reading materials are distributed to a cooperating network of regional and subregional libraries, from which they are circulated to eligible borrowers. The materials and playback equipment are sent to borrowers and returned to libraries by postage-free mail. Digital talking books and magazines are available for download from the Internet through the NLS Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) service and electronic braille books, magazines, and music scores and materials are available for downloading from the online Web-Braille service.


The NLS program is funded annually by Congress. The fiscal year 2010 appropriation is $70,182,000. (NLS was granted a budget increase of $12.5 million each year from FY 2008–2013, for a total of $75 million over these six years, to expedite the transition of the audiobook program from analog to digital.)

Through an appropriation to the U.S. Postal Service, books and materials are mailed as "Free Matter for the Blind or Handicapped." The combined annual expenditures for the program are approximately $182 million. Cooperating network libraries receive funding from state, local, and federal sources.



Any resident of the United States or American citizen living abroad who is unable to read or use regular print materials as a result of temporary or permanent visual or physical limitations may receive service.


Book Collection

Books are selected on the basis of their appeal across a wide range of interests. Bestsellers, biographies, fiction, and how-to books are in great demand. Some titles are produced in Spanish. Registered borrowers learn of new books added to the collection through two bimonthly publications, Talking Book Topics and Braille Book Review. The NLS book collection and resources of cooperating agencies are listed in the NLS International Union Catalog, searchable online at www.loc.gov/nls.


Magazines are selected for the program in response to demonstrated reader interest. More than forty audio and thirty braille magazine titles are offered. Readers may request audio subscriptions to such titles as People, National Geographic, and Consumer Reports or braille subscriptions to periodicals like Ladies Home Journal, ESPN: The Magazine, and The New York Times Large Print Weekly. Current issues are mailed to readers at the same time the print issues appear or shortly thereafter. More than forty audio magazines are available for download on BARD.

Music Scores and Books

Individuals who are interested in music materials may receive them directly from the NLS Music Section. The collection consists of scores in braille and large print; textbooks and books about music in braille and large print; music appreciation cassettes, including interviews and opera lectures; and self-instruction cassettes for voice, piano, organ, keyboard, guitar, recorder, accordion, banjo, harmonica, and other instruments. Braille scores and books are also available on the Internet through Web-Braille. In addition, NLS compiles and produces three music publications in accessible formats: Musical Mainstream; Contemporary Sound Track: A Review of Pop, Jazz, Rock, and Country; and Popular Music Lead Sheets. The music section may be reached at www.loc.gov/nls/music or 800-424-8567.


Equipment and Accessories

Playback equipment is loaned free of charge for use with audio reading material recorded on cartridges. Digital talking-book machines play digitally recorded books on cartridges. Cassette machines are designed for books and magazines recorded at 15/16 ips and the standard speed of 1-7/8 ips on 2 and 4 tracks.

Accessories for the digital talking-book machines include an adapter to facilitate the use of commercial USB flash drives and an adapter for using NLS headphones. Cassette-book machines have several accessories available for readers with limited mobility and dexterity, including breath switches, extension levers, pillow speakers, and remote-control units. A solar-panel charger for cassette-book machine batteries is also available. Readers with significant hearing loss may request amplifiers for both digital talking-book players and cassette-book machines. The factsheet Playback Machines and Accessories Provided on Free Loan to Eligible Individuals and Institutions provides detailed instructions on obtaining NLS equipment.

Volunteer Services

Volunteers contribute important services to the NLS program in the areas of braille transcription and proofreading, audiobook production, and machine repair. Free correspondence courses leading to certification in braille transcribing (literary, music, and mathematics) and braille proofreading are offered. Training in audiobook production is available on request to local recording groups. National volunteer groups also assist network libraries in repairing playback equipment.


Information Services

NLS and network libraries respond to questions on various aspects of blindness and physical handicaps. This service is available without charge to individuals, organizations, and libraries. Publications of interest to people with handicaps, service providers, and the general public are available free upon request.


Consumer Relations

The consumer relations officer maintains regular contact with consumer groups and individual users of the program to identify and resolve service problems and to assure that users’ needs are met.


For Further Information

Ask your local public librarian for more information about the program and how to apply for service. Information and applications are also available on the Internet at www.loc.gov/nls.


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Order Form

Please complete the mailing address information and check the items you would like to receive. Several of the publications listed below are available in more than one format. Many of these publications are also available online at www.loc.gov/nls.




Applications for Free Library Service

  • [ ] Eligibility Requirements and Application Form (Individuals)
    • [ ] Solicitud de servicio bibliotecario gratuito para individuos y requisitos para inscribirse como usuario
  • [ ] Eligibility Requirements and Application Form (Institutions)

Bibliographies (Print publications on special topics)

  • [ ] Accessibility: A Selective Bibliography
  • [ ] Library and Information Services for Blind and Physically Handicapped Individuals
  • [ ] Physical Handicaps: A Selective Bibliography

Braille (Information and samples)

Recent materials

  • [ ] About Braille
  • [ ] Bookmark
  • [ ] Braille alphabet card
  • [ ] Date Finder
  • [ ] Do You Know This Tune? (braille music)
  • [ ] Sources of Braille Reading Materials
  • [ ] Web-Braille

Older material (Revision in progress; limited quantities of current edition remain)

  • [ ] Braille Literacy: Resources for Instruction, Writing Equipment, and Supplies

Brochures (General)

  • [ ] Books Are Fun for Everyone
  • [ ] Frequently Asked Questions about the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
  • [ ] Music Is for Everyone
  • [ ] Reading Is for Everyone
  • [ ] Reading with Low Vision
  • [ ] Reference and Information Services
  • [ ] Talking Books for People with Physical Disabilities
  • [ ] Talking Books for Senior Adults
    • [ ] Libros parlantes para la tercera edad

Catalogs (Braille and recorded books)

Recent catalogs

  • [ ] Braille Books (biennial)
  • [ ] Digital Talking Books Plus [formerly Cassette Books] (annual)
  • [ ] For Younger Readers (biennial)

Older catalogs (Revisions in progress; limited quantities of current edition remain)

  • [ ] Books in Spanish/Libros en Español
  • [ ] Magazines in Special Media

Circulars (Information on special topics)

Recent circulars

  • [ ] Blindness and Visual Impairments: Information and Advocacy Organizations
  • [ ] Building a Library Collection on Blindness and Physical Handicaps: Basic Materials and Resources

Older circulars (Revisions in progress; limited quantities of current edition remain)

  • [ ] Bibles and Other Sacred Writings in Special Media
  • [ ] Deaf-Blindness: National Organizations and Resources
  • [ ] Employment of People with Disabilities: A Resource Guide
  • [ ] Guide to Spoken-Word Recordings: Popular Literature
  • [ ] Information for Travelers with Physical or Visual Disabilities
  • [ ] Learning Disabilities: Organizations and Resources
  • [ ] Magazine Program of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
  • [ ] Magnifying Devices: A Resource Guide
  • [ ] Parents’ Guide to the Development of Preschool Children with Disabilities: Resources and Services
  • [ ] Reading Materials in Large Print


Recent directories

  • [ ] Address List: Regional and Subregional Libraries (semiannual)
  • [ ] Library Resources for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (annual)

Older directory (Revision in progress; limited quantities of current edition remain)

  • [ ] Sources of Custom-Produced Books: Braille, Audio Recordings, and Large Print

Facts (Information on special topics)

Recent factsheets

  • [ ] Books for Blind and Physically Handicapped Individuals
    • [ ] Libros para individuos con ceguera e impedimentos físicos
  • [ ] Calendars (annual)
  • [ ] Copyright Law Amendment, 1996: PL 104-197
  • [ ] Digital Audiobook Players
  • [ ] Music Services for Blind and Physically Handicapped Individuals
  • [ ] Playback Machines and Accessories Provided on Free Loan to Eligible Individuals and Institutions
    • [ ] Equipos reproductores de audio y accesorios disponibles mediante préstamo gratuito para individuos e instituciones elegibles

Older factsheets (Revisions in progress; limited quantities of current edition remain)

  • [ ] Library Service to Institutions
  • [ ] Selected Sources for Electronic Texts
  • [ ] Selected Veterans Organizations
  • [ ] Talking Books and Reading Disabilities

Magazines and Newsletters (Sample print copies)

  • [ ] Braille Book Review (new braille books and program news)—bimonthly
  • [ ] News (current program developments)—quarterly
  • [ ] Talking Book Topics (new recorded books and program news)—bimonthly
  • [ ] Update (volunteer activities)—occasional

Ordering Instructions

For faster service, fax this form to (202) 707-0712, e-mail nlsref@loc.gov, call (202) 707-5100, or visit www.loc.gov to request publications. Since mid-October 2001, security examinations have slowed delivery by the United States Postal Service. Though substantial delays may result, this form also may be mailed to:

Reference Section
National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
Library of Congress
Washington, DC 20542-0001

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Posted on 2011-05-13