"When I finish a book I applaud," said Donna Neal of Missouri. "No one's in the room, but I applaud." Neal's enthusiastic appreciation is not just for the book itself, but also for the opportunity to read it: Neal is blind.
For blind and physically disabled readers, getting a hold of the latest bestseller isn't as simple as pulling a book off the nearest bookstore shelf. Books have to be made accessible.
At the forefront of providing such materials as braille and audiobooks to readers like Neal is the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), part of the Library of Congress.
"Our primary goal is to ensure that our patrons have the reading materials that they need to increase their quality of life. This is what we're all about," said Karen Keninger, NLS director -- the first blind person to hold that position.
Having provided audio and braille reading materials free of charge to people of all ages for more than 80 years, NLS recently introduced a digital talking-book system, which includes an audiobook player and cartridges. The system offers high-quality sound, easy navigation between book chapters and a sleep button.
Unlike cassettes, which require multiple units for a lengthy book, each cartridge will hold a complete book. People with access to the Internet can download audiobooks and magazines using the Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD), the NLS online delivery system.
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