The blind can still enjoy books

Published 12:13 am Saturday, July 11, 2009

When my husband Claude and I attend book signings for his two novels, we find an added bonus in doing so. Not only do we meet new people, see old friends and promote and sell his books, but we have the opportunity to inform people who have low vision problems or are legally blind about the service provided by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.

Claude has always loved to read. Some years ago when he started experiencing the effects of macular degeneration, someone told him about “talking books,” the free service offered by the library service. Since that time, he has taken advantage of it. Every night at bedtime when I open the book I’m currently reading, he puts on his earphones and clicks the machine provided by the library to listen to a book on tape from the library’s vast selection of titles. They also provide the special tape player. When he completes the tape, he places it in the container it arrived in, flips an address card marked “postage free” on the container, and drops it in the mail.

We have discovered that the service, established by an act of U.S. Congress in 1931 to serve blind adults, is not as well known as we think it should be. In later years the service was expanded to include children, to provide music materials and to include individuals with other physical impairments that prevent reading of standard print.

Last September, the Andalusia Public Library hosted a book signing for Claude’s first book, The Secret in Deep Water Swamp. This newspaper ran a feature article about him. It emphasized that he authored a book he couldn’t read. (He uses computer software that magnifies type and reads what he writes to him.) Rev. Dan McLauren, a retired minister who also has macular degeneration, came to that signing. We learned Dan and his wife Marlene didn’t know about the NLS service. We told them how to get started.

When we were camping this spring, a Florida man bought Claude’s first book in audio on CD for his blind wife. We asked him if he knew about the free books on tape. He didn’t. He immediately started making arrangements to get the service for his wife.

Our book-signing table in Pensacola was close to the audio books in the book store. We struck up a conversation with a man who was looking them over. His vision was impaired due to a stroke. He had a lot of trouble reading. We posed the question again. And again we found someone who was unaware.

That same day my husband also shared the information with a person with vision problems as the result of brain surgery.

If you know someone who is denied the joy of reading because of vision problems or another handicap, help them get in touch with their librarian who can furnish them with the form to apply for books (and magazines and music) on tape or in Braille.