Have you ever been to a concert and closed your eyes to hear a hint of a grin in the singer’s voice? A major selling point of many concerts is the visual performance, but what if that was not an option? Or consider the act of curling up with a good book or magazine and the pleasure, learning, and connection it can bring. The small things sighted people take for granted like reading a menu on a night out or reading that best seller from that one author can be difficult or impossible for those with blindness, low vision, or other visual and physical disabilities.

Thanks to a longstanding partnership between the Talking Book Program (TBP) at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS) at the Library of Congress, and new technology, there are many options available to help Texans of all ages maintain the ability to read. We provide access to books and magazines 24/7!

The Talking Book Program is a free library service for Texans of all ages who cannot read standard print due to blindness or a visual, physical, or reading disability, whether temporary or a lifelong need. Qualified individuals may receive books on loan from TBP in large print, braille, and/or on digital audio cartridge. The playback digital talking book machine is also provided to use free of charge to active patrons in the program—and postage is paid for when the materials are returned. TBP patrons may also download books through the Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) website, or they can use a free mobile app called BARD Mobile to download books directly to their smartphone or tablet. Qualified veterans who have been honorably discharged are given priority status and are offered a variety of recreational and educational reading materials.

Many people use the Talking Book Program:

• A college student who has low vision downloads novels to read for an English class.

• A woman who has an injured shoulder and can’t hold a book reads recorded digital audio historical fiction.

• A father who is blind uses Braille to read fairy tales to his young child.

• A retired veteran with low vision reads mysteries in large print.

• A teenager with dyslexia downloads the latest young adult book using the free BARD Mobile app installed on his phone.

• A person who is blind reads a recorded cookbook while making dinner.

• A middle school student downloads novels for English class to her computer, transfers them to a flash drive, and reads them on the TBP player.

Many patrons of the Talking Book Program start using the service later in life and are delighted to be able to read comfortably again. Others begin using the service as young or school-age children and continue as TBP readers throughout life. Census data shows that out of a state population of approximately 29 million people, more than 400,000 Texans could be eligible for this service.

Patrons may select from over 150,000 books and magazines. Many books and some magazines are available in Spanish and other languages. Reader consultants and librarians, some of whom are bilingual, are available to suggest books and answer questions by phone or email. The collection includes both fiction and nonfiction—we have best sellers, mysteries, Westerns, science fiction, romances, history, biography, cookbooks, how-to books, nutrition titles, and much more. TBP also refers readers to other organizations that offer textbooks and newspapers.

Applying is easy. Just fill out a short, two-page application. Have it signed by a certifying authority—that can include teachers, librarians, medical professionals, social workers, clergy, and more. Then send it back to us.

If you or someone you know misses the joy of reading, contact the Talking Book Program today.

For more information, give us a call at 1-800-252-9605, or 512-463-5458 (Austin area). Fill out our form at https://www.tsl.texas.gov/tbp/askalibrarian. Email us at tbp.services@tsl.texas.gov or fax to 512-936-0685. You can also visit www.TexasTalkingBooks.org for more information or to apply.