Feature, Keekli Bureau, Oct, 2020
Whether for escape, enlightenment, or pure joy, books allow us to connect to other places and times. Fortunately for the millions of Americans who have impaired vision or a physical disability, there are braille and talking books from NLS.
NLS is the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, part of the Library of Congress. Established in 1931, the organization’s mission is to enrich the lives of its patrons by offering them books, magazines, music scores, and other materials in audio and braille at no charge. Unlike traditional audiobooks that are provided at public libraries or sold at retail bookstores, audiobooks offered by NLS are unabridged, extensive and diverse, and are designed specifically for people who are unable to read regular print.
NLS provides its services to any U.S. resident or U.S. citizen living abroad who is blind, has low vision, or has a physical disability that makes it difficult to hold a book. Thousands of bestsellers, classics, biographies, nonfiction works, and more can be downloaded from the Internet or ordered for home delivery through a nationwide network of cooperating libraries.
Those with cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, loss of the use of their arms or hands, or prolonged weakness can access the NLS collection. So, too, can people with temporary limitations resulting from strokes or accidents. Now avid readers like San Francisco resident Ivana Kirola, 38, who suffers from cerebral palsy, can continue to satisfy their interests, which for Kirola range from politics, to travel, to music.
“I really appreciate the services from NLS,” Kirola says. “They help me in my daily life, in understanding people and keeping up to date with the news. My favorite part of NLS is the widened horizons that reading audiobooks gives to me.”
Along with her love of books, Kirola attends a yoga class at the San Francisco Library—one of NLS’s regional partners.
“The thing that has helped me is to remain persistent in what I would like to experience,” says Kirola. “Sometimes what you need is elusive, but it’s important not to give up. There are solutions for everything, but sometimes it takes persistence to find out what they are.”