March 20, 2002 National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped Announces Telecommunications Initiatives

Press Contact: Audrey Fischer (202) 707-0022
Public Contact: Robert Fistick (202) 707-9279

The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) in the Library of Congress announces its collaboration with NFB-NEWSLINE and , two telecommunications technology initiatives that will benefit eligible blind and physically handicapped readers.

NFB-NEWSLINE, a service of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), provides audio versions of daily newspapers through a toll-free telephone number., an online Web service, allows individuals to download more than 8,000 books in braille. It also provides the capability to listen to books with the aid of synthetic speech software.

"NLS is expanding its services to readers by participating in cooperative technology initiatives, such as NFB-NEWSLINE and," said NLS Director Frank Kurt Cylke.

NFB-NEWSLINE is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and is free to anyone in the United States who is eligible to receive services from NLS. Blind and physically handicapped individuals can register for NFB-NEWSLINE by completing an addendum sheet to the NLS application. Current patrons should notify their service library that they would like to subscribe to NFB-NEWSLINE.

Daily newspapers provided on NFB-NEWSLINE include USA Today, the Chicago Tribune, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Wall Street Journal. Readers are able to access these newspapers and dozens more. The goal of NFB-NEWSLINE is to provide at least two newspapers from each state. The service will also offer other information through menu selections, including agency announcements and library newsletters from around the country. launched its online service in mid-February, with an initial electronic collection of synthesized speech and braille library materials of more than 8,000 books for use by blind and physically handicapped individuals. was developed by Benetech, a nonprofit enterprise in Palo Alto, Calif., in cooperation with the Association of American Publishers. According to Benetech Chief Executive Jim Fruchterman, " is trying to make it no more difficult to get your hands on a book if you're a blind person than if you're a sighted person."

To be eligible to use, individuals must submit proof of disability. NLS patrons will be able to access the low-cost site with their prior registration data. The set-up fee is $25, and the annual fee is $50. To prevent individuals from unauthorized sharing on the Internet, each book is encrypted and contains digital fingerprints. Benetech plans to add a few thousand books monthly to its database which resides on a dedicated server.

Both of these telecommunications initiatives build on other electronic services offered by NLS. Since 1999, NLS has offered Web-Braille, an Internet service that provides electronic versions of recent braille books, braille magazines, and musical scores. Currently more than 4,000 digital braille book files, 25 national magazines, 200 music scores, and five national sports schedules are available through a free online braille program that provides a direct channel for individuals, schools, and libraries with Internet connections and braille output devices, such as braille embossers or refreshable braille displays.

For more information about, visit the Benetech Web site at or call (650) 475-5440. A demonstration of the service is available at

For more information about NFB-NEWSLINE, visit the NFB Web site at or call (410) 659-9314.

For more information about Web-Braille, visit the NLS Web site at or call (202) 707-5100; TDD: (202) 707-0744.


PR 02-037
ISSN 0731-3527