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And the Blind Shall Read

According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, more than three million Americans have the chronic eye disease, but only half of that population is aware of it; the early stages of glaucoma have no initial symptoms, no noticeable vision loss and no pain. Approximately one out of every 10,000 babies born in the United States is afflicted with the disease, and the World Health Organization says that glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world.

Assembling books for the blind Library of Congress: Division for the Blind Reading Room. 1920

January marks National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Americans are encouraged to have their vision screened, especially anyone over the age of 60, African-Americans over the age of 40 and people who have a family history of glaucoma. Luckily, in this day and age, those who suffer from glaucoma and other vision impairments can still lead normal active lives and enjoy many hobbies – even reading.

The Library of Congress National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) – celebrating 75 years in 2006 – has made such a thing possible. To date, the program has circulated by mail more than 24 million copies of braille and recorded books and magazines to approximately 500,000 readers through a network of 132 cooperating libraries. To keep up with today's technology, NLS will begin to replace its existing cassette-based talking book system with new digital talking books in 2008.

The Library of Congress Information Bulletin ran an article in its November issue chronicling the past endeavors that have made NLS the success it is today. For more information on the program, check out the NLS Web site, where users can learn how to sign up, search through the service's online catalogs for favorite books and magazines, locate participating libraries and more.

The Library of Congress Information Bulletin reports on the policies, programs and events of the Library to an audience of more than 12,000, including members of Congress; public, academic and research institutions; learned societies and allied organizations; and more than 1,000 depository libraries in the United States. Searching through past issues can give you an idea of the institution's activities since 1993.

A. Assembling books for the blind. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction No.: LC-DIG-ggbain-00080 (digital file from original neg.); Call No.: LC-B2- 15-12[P&P]

B. Library of Congress: Division for the Blind Reading Room. 1920. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction No.: LC-USZ62-59272 (b&w film copy neg.); Call No.: U.S. GEOG FILE - Washington, D.C.--Library of Congress [item] [P&P]