The National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS) loans playback equipment free of charge for use with NLS books and magazines. Both NLS equipment and reading materials are available to individuals who cannot see to read regular print or handle print materials and who are registered for the free library service.
Playback equipment needed to read audiobooks (called talking books) and magazines is circulated to patrons by network libraries via postage-free mail, just as talking books on cartridges are. Digital audio and ebraille materials are also available through BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) online service. BARD audio materials can be downloaded onto cartridges and USB flash devices. Or patrons can read NLS books on their mobile devices, freeing up NLS equipment for other patrons, by using the BARD Mobile app.
Accessories for the players include adapters for USB drives, lightweight headphones, breath switches, and remote controls. Readers with significant hearing loss may request a high-volume player and headphones from their network library.
NLS has been authorized to loan refreshable braille displays to eligible readers. Distribution of these units is underway. Interested NLS patrons should ask their network library about the availability of these devices.
To learn more, visit the NLS resource sharing information about commercially available assistive technology. To request equipment and accessories, just contact your local network library.
Need to return your equipment?
Playback equipment and accessories are supplied to eligible persons on extended loan. If this equipment is not being used for reading recorded material provided by the Library of Congress and its cooperating libraries, please return it to the issuing agency. NLS equipment and materials are the property of the Library of Congress and should not be sold, reproduced and/or copied.
In the event you find NLS property, such as machines or accessories, please return them immediately one of two ways:
- Take items to a local network library; a list of these libraries can be found on our Find Your Library page.
- Package items in any securely sealed box and send through the U.S. Postal Service to the address: Equipment Control Officer, The Library of Congress, NLS, Washington, DC 20542. This package may be marked FREE MATTER FOR THE BLIND and sent with no postage.
Want to know more about BARD and equipment to play BARD books and magazine?
The BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download) is a web-based service that provides access to braille and talking books, magazines, and music scores available from NLS. The service is available to registered users of the braille and talking book program through their local braille and talking book library.
Braille books and magazines may be also downloaded through the BARD Mobile app, which requires connection to a refreshable braille display via a Bluetooth connection. The BARD website and mobile app are password-protected, and all files are in an electronically downloadable form of compressed audio or formatted braille. BARD is available to registered users of NLS through their local braille and talking book library.
BARD Players and Accessories (for use with the talking-book players)
Learn where to purchase cartridges and cables to make it easy to use the BARD.
Braille Displays and Notetakers (for use with the BARD Mobile app)
Learn where to purchase braille writing equipment.
BARD Mobile Apps
BARD Mobile for iOS devices External delivers braille and talking books to your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. BARD Mobile for Android External delivers talking books to your Android smartphone or tablet. And BARD Mobile for Fire tablets External delivers braille and talking books on your Amazon Fire tablet. Commercially Available Reading Apps for reading are available from commercial vendors.
The BARD Mobile app is easy to use. The narrators are superb.– NLS patron