WTBBL patrons can download free braille and talking book app

News Release
Issued: September 27, 2013

OLYMPIA...People who are blind, visually impaired or have a physical disability may now download audio and braille books to their iPhone, iPad or iPod touch if they are registered at the Washington Talking Book & Braille Library for the Library of Congress free library service.

The Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) Mobile app is now available through the Apple App Store. The free app allows readers to download audio and braille books from their National Library Service BARD accounts. Access to BARD is provided through local cooperating libraries. BARD contains nearly 50,000 books, magazines and music scores in audio and braille formats, with new selections added daily.

"The Washington Talking Book & Braille Library is excited about the opportunity BARD Mobile brings to our community,” said WTBBL Program Manager Danielle Miller. "We have 1,691 patrons using BARD and already 133 actively using the app.”

NLS Director Karen Keninger said, "The BARD Mobile app allows searching, downloading and reading braille and talking books and magazines on one fully accessible, mainstream device. It's a library in your pocket.

"With BARD Mobile, patrons can play talking books and magazines on their iOS devices,” Keninger added. "Patrons may also read electronic braille books, magazines and music scores using a refreshable braille display connected to their iPhone, iPad or iPod touch through Bluetooth.” 

Patrons will be able to receive their reading materials faster and won't have to be weighted down with bulky volumes or playback equipment.

"It is a joy for me as an avid book reader to have the ability to read audio books or braille books digitally via my iPhone,” said WTBBL patron Marlaina L. of Burien. "When I think back to the 1950s as I began my education as a blind child and remember that the American Vest Pocket Dictionary was embossed in seven very large braille volumes, I can hardly believe that today I am able to carry around countless numbers of digitally prepared books in my pocket on my iPhone.  It truly is a miracle!”

"BARD Mobile is another benchmark in our use of technology to enhance the delivery and reading experience of NLS patrons,” Keninger said. "NLS developed the BARD Mobile app in response to demand from our borrowers.  Blind and disabled Americans are as keen as everyone else to use mobile devices. Our younger patrons are particularly eager to use the same gadgets as their peers.”

NLS is also working on an app for Android devices.

WTBBL patrons' initial response to the BARD app is positive. Steve V. from Kennewick said, "The BARD Mobile app is one that I have been waiting for for a long time.  It is so great to be able to reduce the number of things I have to carry around with me.”

"Being able to download from BARD to my phone has been near the top of my wish list for a long time. I can hardly believe that now I can listen to an entire Economist issue every week! Thank you, thank you, thank you,” says Sheldon P. from Bellingham.  Seattle patron Larry S. says the app "works really well to play books and magazines at whatever speed you like. What I most like about the app is that it simplifies my life.”

BARD Mobile will make reading not only more accessible, but more portable. "We anticipate that significant numbers of readers will adopt the app as their primary reading device,” Keninger said. "As a growing percentage of blind and disabled Americans adopt mobile devices, the app will provide a highly valued avenue to NLS materials.”

Eligible users in Washington may even find the free braille and talking-book program more attractive.

"Please contact the Washington Talking Book & Braille Library to learn more about this program and how you can participate,” Miller said.

Located in Seattle, the Washington Talking Book & Braille Library is a program of the Washington State Library and the Office of Secretary of State. You can reach WTBBL at www.wtbbl.org, wtbbl@sos.wa.gov, or (800) 542-0866 or (206) 615-0400.