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National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped Benefits

Program Description

The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress, administers the braille and talking-book program, a free library service for residents of the United States and its territories and American citizens living abroad whose low vision, blindness, or physical disability makes reading regular print difficult. Through its national network of cooperating libraries, NLS mails digital audio players and books and magazines - in audio and in braille - directly to enrollees at no cost. Music instructional materials also are available in large-print, braille, and recorded formats. Select materials are available online for download via the Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) service online and via BARD Mobile, available through the App Store. To learn more, call 1-888-NLS-READ (1-888-657-7323) or visit http://www.loc.gov/nls/find.html.

General Program Requirements

The following persons are eligible for the free library service:
  1. Blind persons whose visual acuity, as determined by competent authority, is 20/200 or less in the better eye with correcting lenses, or whose widest diameter of visual field subtends an angular distance no greater than 20 degrees.
  2. Other physically handicapped persons are eligible as follows:
    1. Persons whose visual disability, with correction and regardless of optical measurement, is certified by competent authority as preventing the reading of regular printed material.
    2. Persons certified by competent authority as unable to read or unable to use regular printed material as a result of physical limitations.
    3. Persons certified by competent authority as having a reading disability resulting from organic dysfunction and of sufficient severity to prevent their reading printed material in a normal manner.
Eligible readers must be certified as eligible by a competent authority (see http://www.loc.gov/nls/eligible.html) and must be residents of the United States, including the several states, territories, insular possessions, and the District of Columbia; or, American citizens domiciled abroad.

Your Next Steps

The following information will lead you to the next steps to apply for this program.

Application Process

If you or someone you know is interested in receiving talking books or braille service, please take the following steps:
  1. Carefully read the description of eligibility to determine if the interested individual is eligible for service.
  2. Browse the library address list at http://www.loc.gov/nls/find.html to locate the regional or subregional library closest to the eligible individual.
  3. Contact that library by email, telephone, fax, or in writing and request an application for service; or, visit http://www.loc.gov/nls/pdf/index.html to find a form you can complete online, print, and send to a cooperating library.
  4. If you are unable to locate a library or wish additional assistance, please send us a message via e-mail at nls@loc.gov, call 1-202-707-5100, toll-free 1-800-424-8567, or request that an application packet be mailed to you.

Program Contact Information

For more information about this program, visit: http://www.loc.gov/nls/index.html
Or contact the NLS at:
Reference Section
National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
Library of Congress
Washington, DC 20542
Telephone: 202-707-5100
Toll-free 1-800-424-8567,
Fax: 202-707-0712
E-mail: nls@loc.gov