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Library for the Blind & Print Disabled

Library for the Blind & Physically Handicapped

The Huntsville Subregional Library for the Blind and Print Disabled is the source for Digital Talking Books and braille material for residents of Madison County, Alabama who are unable to read the written word due to visual impairments or physical disabilities. We routinely mail free recorded digital books as well as the free equipment needed to play them to patrons all across our Madison County service area. Our highly trained staff is here to assist patrons with special needs in their reading selections.

As a talking books library our mission fully aligns with the National Library Service motto, That All May Read.

  • Who is eligible for Talking Books service per NLS regulations?

    The following persons are eligible for service:

    1. Blind persons whose visual acuity, as determined by competent authority, is 20/200 or less in the better eye with correcting lenses, or whose widest diameter of visual field subtends an angular distance no greater than 20 degrees.
    2. Other physically handicapped persons are eligible as follows:
      • Persons whose visual disability, with correction and regardless of optical measurement, is certified by competent authority as preventing the reading of standard printed material.
      • Persons certified by competent authority as unable to read or unable to use standard printed material as a result of physical limitations.
      • Persons certified by competent authority as having a reading disability resulting from organic dysfunction and of sufficient severity to prevent their reading printed material in a normal manner.


  • Who may certify patrons as eligible for service per NLS regulations?

    Certifying Authority

    In cases of blindness, visual impairment, or physical limitations, "competent authority" is defined to include doctors of medicine; doctors of osteopathy; ophthalmologists; optometrists; registered nurses; therapists; and professional staff of hospitals, institutions, and public or private welfare agencies (e.g., social workers, case workers, counselors, rehabilitation teachers, and superintendents). In the absence of any of these, certification may be made by professional librarians or by any person whose competence under specific circumstances is acceptable to the Library of Congress.

    In the case of reading disability from organic dysfunction, competent authority is defined as doctors of medicine and doctors of osteopathy who may consult with colleagues in associated disciplines.

  • What residency or citizenship requirement is needed to be a Talking Books patron?

    Residency or U.S. Citizenship

    Eligible readers must be residents of the United States, including the several states, territories, insular possessions, and the District of Columbia; or, American citizens domiciled abroad.

  • What are the different classes of patrons?

    Lending of Materials and Classes of Borrowers

    Veterans. In the lending of books, recordings, playback equipment, musical scores, instructional texts, and other specialized materials, preference shall be given at all times to the needs of the blind and other physically handicapped persons who have been honorably discharged from the armed forces of the United States.

    Institutions. The reading materials and playback equipment for the use of blind and physically handicapped persons may be loaned to individuals who qualify, to institutions such as nursing homes and hospitals, and to schools for the blind or physically handicapped for the use by such persons only. The reading materials and playback equipment may also be used in public or private schools where handicapped students are enrolled; however, the students in public or private schools must be certified as eligible on an individual basis and must be the direct and only recipients of the materials and equipment.

  • What is available from the Talking Books program?

    Library patrons can expect to borrow audio or braille books such as they might find in print at a local public library. Books and magazines in audio form (talking books) and braille are delivered to eligible readers by postage-free mail and are returned in the same manner.

  • Can I get my Talking Books online?

    Yes, patrons with internet access may download Talking Books material through our exciting new program called BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download). BARD enables registered patrons to download over 28,000 digital books (DBs) and over 40 digital magazines directly from the program's website. Anyone registered as an active patron of a BPH library can have access to BARD after completing the short online application.

    The service does require a high-speed internet connection from home or through the patron's local public library and either an NLS-authorized digital book player and flash drive cartridge along with a double-ended USB cable or a simple 4 Gig or smaller flash drive. Cartridges & cables may be purchased locally in Huntsville from the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind (AIDB) - for more information call AIDB at 256-539-7881. Some but not all, commercial USB flash drives are also compatible if patrons choose not to use the cartridge and cable set-up. Here is the website with instructions on how to register for downloading books for your Digital Talking Book Machine from the NLS website.

  • How do I know what books you have?

    Here is a link to the NLS Catalog that you may use to look for titles, authors or subjects that interest you: (Scroll down to the Quick Search of the catalog)

  • Do you have textbooks?

    NLS does not provide textbooks, but Ally Learning has many textbooks available for a small subscription fee. For more information visit them at:

  • Is there a cost to join the Talking Books program?

    No, there is no cost to qualified patrons. Books and players are furnished by the NLS and materials are delivered via postage free mail through the United States Postal Service.

  • Can I apply for service online?

    Yes, you may fill out an application online but it will need to be printed and signed by the appropriate certifying authority and then mailed or delivered to the local Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.

    Office hours are Monday - Friday 9:00 AM - 4:30 PM. We are located on the second floor of the Main Library at 915 Monroe Street in Huntsville, AL. "Walk-ins" are always welcome!

  • May I get Talking Books if I do not reside in Madison County, AL?

    Yes, but you will need to apply through NLS and receive Talking Books from your assigned service center. Residents who live outside of Madison County may request service at:

  • How do I find out about more services from this program?

    You may visit the Library of Congress' web page for the National Library Service at: