Blind World Magazine

Library brings joy of reading to the blind.

January 18, 2006.
The Republican - Springfield,MA,USA.

One of my favorite things to do is to curl up with a good book for several hours. But, sadly, reading can be hard on my eyes, causing headaches and fatigue.

Many books, magazines and especially newspapers have very small print that makes it difficult to read and puts strain on my eyes. I have found one excellent resource that brings the joy of reading without straining my eyes.

The program is called the Braille and Talking Book Library.

In 1835 the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown established this program. The library became associated with the National Library Services for the Blind and the Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress in 1931. The program loans Braille books and recorded readings on special four-track audiotapes, along with special tape players, to eligible individuals with disabilities and organizations that provide disability services.

This is one of the first libraries for the blind to be established in the United States. It receives state funding from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners along with private support from the Perkins School for the Blind.

In order to be eligible for library services, an individual must meet one of the following requirements. The first one is being legally blind with vision of 20/200 or less. Someone with a visual field of less than 20 degrees is also eligible.

People with corrected vision who cannot read comfortably for a certain time period can receive library services. Those with reading disabilities and physical limitations also can receive resources from the library.

In addition, individuals who are both legally blind and have a profound hearing loss are eligible. Many institutions such as schools, libraries, hospitals, nursing homes and rehabilitation centers that work with individuals who meet the library qualifications are eligible to receive the library's services.

Anyone can obtain an application by calling the Braille and Talking Book Library. The form requires the identification of what disability prevents the individual from reading standard print.

The application also requires a signature by a certifying authority such as a doctor, social worker or teacher.

After the application is approved, the library user receives in the mail a special cassette player that plays the four-track tapes at an adjustable speed, along with headphones and an amplifier. The library also sends a talking-book catalog full of topics ranging from non-fiction to fiction for all ages. It is published and mailed out every two months.

Talking books are not the only thing that can be borrowed at the library. Other items such as large-print books in all topics like romance and mysteries can also be borrowed. Visually impaired people can also borrow audio-described videos to help people fully understand what is going on through listening. The library has more than 200 titles from which to choose.

One resource I really enjoy is the magazine subscription service where over 70 magazines are on cassette for easy listening.

Another interesting service is called NEWSLINE, where a person can listen to newspapers over the phone. There are 110 newspapers from which to choose, including The Republican, The Boston Globe and USA Today.

The Braille and Talking Book Library helps people enjoy the long-lasting effects reading has on our minds. For more information, call the library at (800) 852-3133. Carrie Barrepski, a native of Livonia, Mich., lives in Western Massachusetts. Her column will appear twice monthly. You can learn more about Carrie at her Web site, She can be reached at

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