Cozying up with a favorite book is something that many of us might take for granted. Usually, finding your nearest bookshop or downloading a text to your e-reader is all it takes to find a great read.
For the blind and visually impaired, however, the search for accessible materials often requires a considerable amount of effort and asking around.
We’ve compiled a list of sites, libraries, and other resources that make braille books, audiobooks, and other materials more accessible to those who struggle or are unable to read printed publications.
What Is a Braille Book?
Braille is a system of writing for the visually impaired and named for its creator, Louis Braille, who developed a code for the French alphabet in 1824.
Books that are written in Braille use combinations of raised dots, which represent letters, numbers, and punctuation marks and are read by touch.
Braille varies from language to language, and sometimes within one language. While early Braille education is crucial for the blind and visually impaired, screen reader software and other technological developments have led to a decline in Braille usage in recent decades.
How Much Do Braille Books Cost?
In general, braille books tend to cost more than regularly printed books. This difference is felt especially by college students.
According to marketplace.org, converting just 5 chapters of a science textbook can cost up to $15,000. Once it’s been created, reprints cost about one third of the original cost, or around $500.
Braille books also take up more space. For example, a math book that contains 1,000 pages would measure around 5,000 pages once it’s converted to braille.
Do Libraries Have Braille Books?
All network libraries provide access to braille and audiobooks produced by the National Library Service. You can search for materials or specific locations here.
You can also contact your local library to ask about what kind of resources they have for the blind and visually impaired. These might include NLS-produced braille and talking books and magazines, large-print books, described DVDs, and more.
Where to Find Books for the Blind
There are a number of options when it comes to finding books for the blind and visually impaired. The following resources provide books written in braille, as well as audiobooks.
National Library Service
The National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled is a free braille and audiobook service for people with low vision, blindness, or physical disabilities that prevent them from reading or holding printed pages.
Through its national network of cooperating libraries, NLS circulates books and magazines in braille or audiobook format that can be delivered by postage-free mail or downloaded instantly.
Materials can be returned the same way—postage-free—and digital talking-book players will also be provide for free. In addition, the NLS also provides music scores and music instruction in braille, audio, and large print.
The Braille Institute Library
The Braille Institute’s Library Services offer books, periodicals, and other texts in in braille and recorded formats. They also have a Telephone Reader Program, a book of the month club, and more.
To use the Braille Institute’s Library, patrons can call or email a list of books they would like to order. Up to 10 books can be ordered per phone call. Or, you can choose to browse their online catalog and order books directly.
Materials must be picked up in person at your local branch, or mailed to you, if available. Returns can also be completed by mail at no cost to you.
If you’re looking for aduiobooks, Audible should be your first stop. With a 30-day free trial, you can browse Audible’s library containing tens of thousands of titles.
During the trial, you’ll be able to download two audiobooks at no charge (yours to keep). After the 30-day period, you can subscribe and download one book each month for $14.95.
Finding great books in braille can be as easy as turning to Amazon. The site offers a number of books for the visually impaired, ranging from braille practice books and strategies to braille versions of beloved titles, like Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
Of course, you can also use Amazon to purchase and download a wide selection of audiobooks through Audible.
National Federation for the Blind Newsline
The NFB Newsline is a free audio news service that offers access to more than 500 publications, emergency weather alerts, job listings, and more.
Access national newspapers and breaking news sources, like the Wall Street Journal, CNN, and ESPN Online, as well as magazines, including Family Circle, Time, and Smithsonian.
Anyone who cannot read printed publications due to vision loss, dyslexia, or physical disability is eligible to receive NFB Newsline. You can register by calling your state’s Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, or by completing an online application.
Through Bookshare, people with dyslexia, blindness, cerebral palsy, and other reading barriers can customize their reading experience with audiobooks, highlighted text, braille, large fonts, and other formats.
Access 786,335 titles, including textbooks, bestsellers, children’s books, career resources, and more. The service is free for qualified U.S. students and schools, and costs less than $1 per week for adults (with reduced fees in certain countries).
Read How You Want
Read How You Want is an Australian-based company that offers the widest selection of on-demand, optimized alternative format editions, including large print books, on the market today.
Readers can call to inquire about a title, or search and purchase books directly on their site by entering a book’s title, author, publisher, or ISBN.
Books for the Visually Impaired
Books should be accessible to everyone, regardless of any special needs or disabilities. Using the resources above, those who cannot read traditional printed publications can find books in braille, audio, large-font, and other formats so that they can enjoy novels, news publications, and more.
For more books on audio, check out our picks for the 10 best sites to find free audiobooks, as well as 17 sites that offer free and low-priced audio and ebooks.
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