People with Physical Disabilities

NLS is best-known for providing books and magazines in audio and braille to people who are blind or visually impaired; that’s been our mission since 1931.

In 1966, Congress passed legislation extending NLS service to people who are unable to use regular printed materials because of a physical disability. This includes people who have a permanent or temporary disability as the result of a neuromuscular disorder, stroke, accident, or many other causes.

Any US resident or American citizen living abroad who has a qualifying condition can apply for this free service. Doctors, nurses, and therapists are among the wide range of professionals who can certify an applicant’s eligibility.

Once enrolled, you’ll find a collection that rivals any library’s in selection, size and scope, with accessible books for readers of all ages and interests: Bestsellers. Biographies. Romances. Science fiction. Westerns. And more, including books by, about, and for people with physical disabilities.

If you have a smartphone or tablet, you can download books and magazines anytime, anywhere, via BARD—the Braille and Audio Reading Download website—and the BARD Mobile app. Or you can receive books and magazines through the mail, postage-free, from the NLS library that serves your state or community. They’ll send you a talking-book playback machine, too.

NLS equipment and services are designed to meet the needs of our patrons. The BARD Mobile app is meant to work seamlessly with Apple’s VoiceOver and Android’s TalkBack voice user interfaces. Playback machines have large buttons for ease of use, and you can request accessories such as breath switches and remote controls. Our easy-to-handle talking-book cartridges can hold multiple books to last through those winter storms and summer beach trips. All NLS talking books can be navigated by chapter, section, or page and can be played at varying speeds with no loss of clarity.

Have questions? Ready to apply? Call 888-NLS-READ (888-657-7323) and follow the prompts to be connected to your local NLS network library. Or complete a short online form to request more information.

For someone who may not be able to physically hold a book in their hands, there are special devices that allow them to access the same content that anybody else would. It’s basically like being able to live in the same world that everybody else is living in.

– NLS patron

NLS also helps patrons find resources on living with disabilities, including tips for leisure travel and preparing for emergencies. Below are links to some other resources you might find useful.

Accessible Mobile Reading Apps describes accessible software applications (apps) for smartphones, which can be used to read books, newspapers, magazines, and other print material, rendering digital text to speech or provide books in audio formats or braille output to a compatible braille device.

Digital Audiobook Players provides basic information about NLS free talking book player as well as commercial players that can play NLS materials.

BARD Access page shares steps to begin using the Braille and Audio Reading Download service and lists information on how to begin using BARD Mobile and BARD Express.

Explore the variety of NLS Informational Publications on issues related to blindness, visual impairment, or physical disabilities, as well as compilations of current resources on many topics of interest to NLS readers and those who provide services to them.

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