NATIONAL LIBRARY SERVICE (NLS) POLICY FOR USE OF “TALKING BOOKS”
and Other Services from
The Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
The Library of Congress, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), administers a free national library program for visually and physically disabled persons who cannot use ordinary print library materials. NLS selects and produces unabridged books and magazines in Braille and recorded formats and distributes them to a network of cooperating regional and sub-regional libraries for circulation to eligible borrowers. Special players, available free from DOL, are required to listen to these books.
NLS is now transitioning to digital book players and book cartridges based on USB flash technology. In addition to using book cartridges, these new digital players can be used to download audio books and magazines from the NLS website. If desired, a patron may also request one of the older NLS cassette players to take advantage of the widest selection of titles.
Reading materials (for listening) and playback equipment is free to students who meet eligibility requirements. “Talking Books” are sent directly to borrowers and returned to DOL by postage-free mail. The collection consists of recreational and general informational reading for adults and children at all grade levels. “Talking Books” are selected on the basis of their appeal to a wide range of reading interests and include bestsellers, biographies, and general fiction and non-fiction.
The NLS collection is recorded primarily for visually or physically disabled adults and children. Each book is read by a single reader, without background music or special sound effects. The materials at any given reading level are not geared to children or adults with short attention spans or to those who need high-interest, low-vocabulary books. Textbooks and curriculum-oriented and remedial reading materials are not included in the NLS book collection.
Special Services also has a collection of print Braille books, which are children’s picture books with Braille-embossed translucent plastic sheets inserted into print books, enabling a family to read together despite blindness. Braille readers in Vermont are served by the NLS library at the Perkins School in Watertown, MA, 617-972-7240 or 800-852-3133.
Special Services maintains a collection of large print books, which includes a small selection of juvenile and young adult books.
The online catalog containing Special Services’ holdings information on digital, cassette, print Braille, large print books, and audio described videos and DVDs is available at http://www.klas.com/vtssu
Public Law 89-522
The NLS program was established by an act of Congress in 1931 to serve blind adults. The program was expanded in 1952 to include blind children and in 1966 by Public Law 89-522 to include individuals with physical impairments that prevent the reading of regular or normal print materials.
Eligibility of Persons with Reading Disabilities
Public Law 89-522 states that materials will be loaned to readers "certified by competent authority as unable to read normal printed material as a result of physical limitations, under regulations prescribed by the Librarian of Congress for this service." The current federal regulation for this program is set forth in the Federal Register for June 7, 1974, as amended October 2, 1981. Individuals with reading disabilities are not expressly covered by this statute. Under Public Law 89-522, only persons whose reading disabilities are physically based are eligible for the NLS talking-book program. Furthermore, the reading disability must be certified by a competent
authority (described below) as having a physical basis before an applicant is considered eligible for the talking-book program. An individual whose reading disability does not have a physical origin is not eligible.
Applications for service from individuals claiming a reading disability based on a physical disability must establish the following facts:
1. Reading disability must be of sufficient severity to prevent reading regular or normal printed material in a normal manner;
2. Cause of the disability must be physically based; that is, it must be an organic dysfunction; and
3. Person certifying the application must be medically able to judge whether the disability has a physical or organic basis.
The following groups of individuals are not automatically eligible: those who have learning disabilities, dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, chronic-fatigue syndrome, autism, functional illiteracy, or mental retardation, unless there is a specific accompanying visual or physical disability.
For most eligible people served by this program, the cause of the inability to read printed material--such as blindness, paralysis, loss of arms or hands, extreme weakness, or palsy-- is readily observable. In these cases, professionals in various fields related to health care, education, or rehabilitation are acceptable as certifying authorities. With persons classified as reading disabled, usually only the effect is readily apparent. The cause, when physical, lies within the central nervous system. Under the existing regulation, this cause can be determined only by competent medical authority.
The signature of a doctor of medicine or doctor of osteopathy is required by federal regulation on the application to certify not only that a reading disability exists and is serious enough to prevent reading regular printed material in a normal manner, but also that the identified condition has a physical basis. Nonorganic factors--such as emotional or environmental causes, intellectual or educational deficiencies, mental retardation, or other possible nonorganic or nonphysical causes--must be ruled out and cannot be taken into consideration. When certifying applications for service for persons with reading disabilities, certifying medical authorities are encouraged to consult with colleagues in associated disciplines.
Submit the completed application, signed by a competent authority (a doctor of medicine or doctor of osteopathy, in the case of a reading disability) to the Special Services Unit.
Recording for the Blind Program
Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D) is a private organization that lends recorded textbooks and other educational materials to blind and visually handicapped people or those with specific learning disabilities who are eligible under its own policies. There is a registration fee and an annual membership fee for RFB&D service. Some applicants for NLS service with reading disabilities already receive service from RFB&D, and they expect that the RFB&D certification will suffice for the NLS talking-book program; however, RFB&D
has its own eligibility criteria for persons with specific learning disabilities that differ from NLS
requirements. (RFB&D has more flexibility in its policies because it is a private, nonprofit, voluntary organization; NLS, however, can provide service only to those who meet federal statutory requirements.)
Note: This year, via a new grant program, individual students (not libraries or schools) can apply for free membership in RFB&D.
Detailed information about the RFB&D program and its availability for reading disabled persons, and application for the service are available from:
Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic
20 Roszel Road, Princeton, NJ 08540
(609) 452-0606, 800-221-4792
RFB does not loan playback equipment to its patrons, but does sell compatible machines.
To fulfill the NLS statutory obligations, assure the continuity of this program, honor agreements that furnish NLS with cost-free copyright permission, and protect the free-matter-for-the-blind-and-handicapped mailing privileges, NLS must ensure conformance with the regulations governing this program. If you have any questions about the eligibility and certification of those with reading or learning disabilities, please refer them to:
Teresa Faust, Librarian
Special Services Unit
Vermont Department of Libraries
578 Paine Tpke N.
Berlin, VT 05602