People with Reading Disabilities

Every day we hear from patrons young and old about the impact NLS has had on their lives. We hear from their family members, too—like the mom in Washington State whose son was diagnosed with dyslexia in elementary school.

“He felt a lot of shame at not being able to read some of the books his fellow students were reading,” she told us.

Soon after his diagnosis, though, she learned about NLS, a free library service for people with temporary or permanent low vision, blindness, or a physical disability or other print disability—like dyslexia—that makes it difficult to read or hold regular print materials. Working with the youth librarian at the NLS network library in Seattle, she enrolled her son.

“I noticed he spent less time watching TV and playing video games. He enjoyed listening in bed. He’s moved on to BARD downloads now and listens to books on an iPad.”

Enrolling in NLS is easy, and an applicant’s eligibility can be certified by a wide range of professionals, including reading specialists, educators, librarians, school administrators, school psychologists, and doctors.

Once enrolled, patrons have access to a collection that rivals any library’s in selection, size and scope, with audio books (which NLS calls “talking books”) for readers of all ages and interests: Bestsellers. Classics. Biographies. Adventure stories. Mysteries. And more—including many books that are required reading for students.

NLS also has materials that can’t be found anywhere else in audio. Like how-to guides for web design, coding, and podcasting. Cookbooks. Music scores and instructional materials for a variety of instruments. Dozens of magazines, such as Sports Illustrated, Good Housekeeping, and Wired. Magazines for younger readers too, like Jack and Jill and Scout Life. Even rule books for Dungeons & Dragons!

Patrons with a smartphone or tablet can get books and magazines anytime, anywhere, via BARD—the NLS Braille and Audio Reading Download website—and the BARD Mobile app. Or they can receive books and magazines through the mail, postage-free, from the NLS library that serves their state or community. Talking-book playback machines are available, too. Our talking-book cartridges can hold multiple books so patrons can keep reading through winter storms and summer beach vacations. And all NLS talking books can be navigated by chapter, section, or page and 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.

He got his digital talking-book player and started receiving books—Minecraft stories, Percy Jackson and more.

— Mother of NLS patron

NLS also has this guide to other services that provide materials to people with reading disabilities, as well as other resources on blindness, low vision, and other print disabilities, some of which are listed below.

Talking Books and Reading Disabilities Ref Guide shares information on eligibility and application process for becoming an NLS patron as well as resources for those with reading disabilities.

National Center on Accessible Education Materials External, funded by the Office of Special Education Programs at the U.S. Department of Education, works with states and districts to build capacity for developing systems for providing accessible materials and technologies for all learners.

Parent Training and Information Centers and Community Parent Resource Centers External provides parents and families around the country to create products and services that increase knowledge and capacity.

Reading Rockets External is an education initiative of WETA, the flagship public television and radio station in the nation's capital, which takes research-based and best-practice information and making it available to as many people as possible through the reach of television and the Internet. 

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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