Reading services for the blind

By: By Ben Loftis - Contributing Columnist

For many people, reading is a source of great enjoyment. Whether it is holding a book and turning pages or reading on a phone or tablet, reading is an opportunity for escape or learning. However, some people do not have the opportunity to enjoy reading due to low vision or physically-based learning disabilities. These individuals also deserve to be able to experience the pleasures of reading.

Fortunately, there are several organizations that serve this population. At the national level, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), a branch of the Library of Congress, serves US citizens with vision that is 20/200 or less or who have a physical disability that prevents them from reading. NLS makes available full-length books and magazines in braille, e-braille, and audio, which are sent to users, along with needed playback equipment, via postage-free mail. More information can be found at their website,

A similar service is provided more locally through the South Carolina State Library’s Talking Book Program. Like NLS, Talking Book Services provide reading accessible reading materials to those who or blind or with low vision, as well as with physical disabilities that prevent reading. Talking Book Services offers a variety of formats including recorded books, large print, and braille, as well as utilizing several assistive devices. More information and an application are available at the Talking Book Services website,

Both programs require applicants to have their conditions certified by a doctor or other medical profession, though exceptions are sometimes made.

The two programs also utilize the Braille and Audio Reading Download service (BARD) to help serve patrons. BARD allows registered users to download Braille and audio books to a personal computer for listening or Braille display. BARD allows offers a free app to iOS users. More information about BARD can be found at

By Ben Loftis

Contributing Columnist

Ben Loftis is the Director of the Union County Carnegie Library.

Ben Loftis is the Director of the Union County Carnegie Library.