People Who Are Visually Impaired

Cataracts. Glaucoma. Diabetic retinopathy. Macular degeneration. These conditions and others, which are most common in older adults, often lead to vision problems that can’t be corrected with eyeglasses, medication, or surgery.

If you have impaired or declining vision as a result of these conditions, an eye injury, or any other cause, you can still enjoy reading—with talking books from NLS.

NLS is a free library service for people with temporary or permanent low vision, blindness, or a physical disability or other print disability that makes it difficult to read or hold regular print materials. Any US resident or American citizen living abroad who has a qualifying condition is eligible. Our collection rivals any library’s in selection, size, and scope, with accessible books for readers of all ages and interests: Bestsellers. Biographies. Romances. Mysteries. Westerns. And more.

Plus, NLS has materials you won’t find anywhere else in audio (and braille, too). Cookbooks, for instance. How-to guides for gardening, knitting, card games, and other hobbies. Travel guides. First aid manuals. Books on health and wellness. And the world’s largest collection of music scores and instructional materials for piano, guitar, and a variety of other instruments.

In addition, many of our 90-plus cooperating libraries throughout the country circulate large-print books and descriptive videos, sponsor book clubs, and run technology tutorials and other programming.

If you have a smartphone or tablet, you can download books and magazines anytime, anywhere, with BARD—the NLS 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. Talking-book playback machines have large buttons for ease of use, and our easy-to-handle talking-book cartridges can hold multiple books to keep you reading 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. Plus, BARD and the BARD Mobile app are meant to work seamlessly with screen readers.

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.

One of the most difficult things I had to deal with when I learned I had impaired vision was that I wouldn’t be able to read. When people alerted me to [NLS], I realized I could listen.

— NLS patron

NLS also helps patrons find resources on a variety of topics related to visual impairment, including a guide to low-vision magnifying devices and sources of large-print materials for purchase or loan. Below are links to some other resources you might find useful.

Blindness and Visual Impairment lists information on assistance organizations that provide direct services to people who are blind or visually impaired, including advocacy and advisory services, information and referral services, and counseling and employment programs.

Currency Reader is a program partnering NLS with the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) to provide a compact device that announces a cash note’s value, distributed free of charge to eligible individuals who are blind or visually impaired.

GPS and Wayfinding Apps offers an overview of the technological solutions for people with disabilities when in transit from one location to another, including mobile applications (apps) for mobile devices that can aid people with visual impairments in finding destinations.

Materials in Large Print Reference Guide presents selected sources of large-print materials free from NLS or other organizations for free, loan, or purchase from other organizations.

Magnifying Devices Resource Guide contains a brief description of different types of magnifiers, their specifications and functionality, as well as the contact information of the vendors where the devices can be purchased.

BARD enrollment page shares steps to begin using Braille and Audio Reading Download service and curates 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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