Woman sitting with audio book player on table

The Joy of Reading While Waiting Out COVID-19

More Talking Books, please!

Reading and Vision Rehabilitation Therapist (VRT) Awareness Week got me thinking about Anne Sullivan, born 154 years ago, on April 14, 1866. As one of the pioneer VRTs, what might she do if she could not meet with her clients face-to-face? She might tell them about the National Library Service (NLS) Talking Book program, which makes books available in audio format for people with vision loss and other print disabilities. Before this COVID-19 crisis, NLS had already developed BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download), through which books and magazines can be downloaded. This is critical right now, as books on cartridges are not being mailed. If someone calls saying, “I’m out of books, what am I going to do now?” you can tell her about BARD.

How to Get on BARD to Download Books

Your first step with BARD is to sign up with the National Library Service by calling 1-888-657-7323 or enroll on the NLS website. If reading print is difficult for you, you’ll qualify for the service, and there’s no charge. Second, register for BARD. Once registered, you’ll receive a username and password you’ll need when you access BARD.

With BARD, you can download any of the many books and magazines that NLS offers on digital cartridges. One of the simplest ways to do this, if you have a tablet or smartphone, is to download the BARD mobile app. After downloading the app, you’ll be prompted to enter your username and password, and you can begin looking for and downloading books and magazine; it’s that simple.

If you need instructions on using the BARD app, check out the Hadley Reading instructional videos for a jumpstart on using the iOS BARD app.

Using BARD Express to Download to a Computer

Using a computer, you can go right to the BARD login page with your username and password to begin downloading books. Another method is to download the BARD Express software, which makes it much easier to download books and save them to a Talking Books cartridge.

You’ll need a blank NLS cartridge and a cable to connect it to your computer. Both cartridge and cable can be purchased by phone from Howell’s Mobility Service at (586) 558-8308, among other retailers. You may also use flash drives but check NLS guidelines first for the type of flash drive that will work best with the Talking Book player.

For more information on how to use BARD Express, check out Perkins School’s instructional article on BARD Express. Once the book or magazine is saved to the cartridge, it will play, just like any sent directly from the library.

Download Books to Your Computer Using Windows

It’s not essential to have BARD Express to download books. You can download them directly to your computer from BARD’s website. For detailed instructions, check out “Downloading BARD books with Windows 7 or 10.” You can also listen to NLS books and magazines on the computer. This requires a DAISY book reader application. To play them on the NLS Talking Book player, you need to save them to a blank NLS cartridge first, or a suitable flash drive. If you’re not a computer, smartphone, or tablet user, be a proactive advocate! Get a blank NLS cartridge or two, and cable. Ask your vision rehabilitation therapist or someone else to help you with the downloading using the directions in this post.

Here’s to you, Anne Sullivan, and all great teachers as we commemorate Vision Rehabilitation Therapist Awareness Week!

Books and Magazines Available Through Other Sources

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