Reading Resources and Technology for the Visually Impaired

Reading Resources Visually Impaired

This week is National Library Week, so what better time to take a look at the reading resources and technology for the visually impaired. Whether you prefer to buy the latest technology and create a personal collection of books, or you are looking for free resources to borrow, there are plenty of options to help you enjoy both educational and recreational literature.

The National Library Service

According to the Library of Congress website, the “National Library Service (NLS) is a free braille and talking book library service for people with temporary or permanent low vision, blindness, or a physical disability that prevents them from reading or holding the printed page.”

The NLS offers books in braille and audio format. Libraries across the country cooperate to deliver free downloads or postage-paid hard copies of books and magazines. You have to register for this free library service, but once you do, you have access to all of their programs. For those who are unable to read large print or handle print materials, the library will also send loaner playback equipment for the audio materials.

Books For Digital Readers

Whether you borrow a digital reader from the library or decide to buy your own, you’ll find that this little piece of technology can open up a whole new world of recreational or educational reading.

Readers like the Milestone 212 Ace Book Reader can read aloud National Library Service (NLS),, and DAISY downloaded books. It can also retain and play MP3, WAV WMA and iTunes AAC audio files.

Digital readers are convenient because they fit in the palm of your hand. If you enjoy using traditional “books-on-tape” you’ll love the convenience of a digital reader. You will no longer be confined to listening in your car or near a full-sized player or stereo. As the weather is changing, you’ll find digital readers are very convenient to take to the beach or on other outings.

To find out what new books are available for digital readers, you can check out Talking Book Topics. This resource lists the latest audio books and magazines that have been added to the library’s collection within the past two months.

Braille Copies

Braille copies of books, magazines, and even musical scores are also available. The Braille Book Review lists the newest titles and selections.

Certain books and magazines are deliverable in hard copy, while others are only available through ebraille.

The NLS explains ebraille like this, “On a computer, downloaded ebraille (electronic braille) materials can be embossed or read with a refreshable braille display. Users must have a braille display, braille-aware device, or braille embosser to read ebraille files. Ebraille materials are available in contracted and uncontracted format and can be downloaded by individual volume or in a ZIP file containing all volumes of the book (or parts of the magazine).”

If you are not sure how to access these services, here is the contact information from the NLS website: To get books if you live in the United States or its territories, contact your local braille and talking book library. Find a Library or call 1-888-NLS-READ (1-888-657-7323) to be connected with the library serving your area. If you are unable to locate a library or wish additional assistance, please contact NLS via, call (202) 707-5100 or toll-free 1-800-424-8567, or request an application packet be mailed to you.

ILA has a large selection of NLS readers, recorders, and players. If you are looking for the latest technology in digital readers, check out what we have to offer!