VA recently partnered with the Library of Congress to promote the Braille and Talking Book Program for Veterans. The program which is administered by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped and sponsored by the Library of Congress is already being used at many VA facilities across the country.

Through a national network of cooperating libraries, the program offers books in a number of formats: Braille, audio, mailed to your door, or instantly downloadable. Although this service is available to any United States resident, honorably discharged Veterans who meet the eligibility requirements have preference in the lending of materials and equipment. Eligibility Veterans are those with an honorable discharge, blind, have low vision, or have a physical disability that prevents them from reading regular print materials. The program, designed to promote independence , improve wellness and the quality of life, is currently used by about 500,000.

Veterans interested in applying for this service must fill out the application online here at and submit the application to the nearest talking library available in their state. A medical professional certifies the applicant is \eligible for the service. Once determined eligible, the Library of Congress provides books and equipment to the individual’s residence.

IMAGE: A woman helps a blinded Air Force member use a specialized audio book player.Any practitioner in VA’s Blind Rehabilitation Service can assist Veterans in applying for services through their local VA facility. These include inpatient Blind Rehabilitation Centers, outpatient blind and low vision clinics, blind rehabilitation outpatient specialists, and visual impairment service team coordinators.

Books for the program are selected for the collection on the basis of their appeal across a wide range of interests to include bestsellers, biographies, fiction works, and how-to books are in great demand. The collection includes books in Spanish and a few titles in other languages. Additionally, books for youth, from preschool to young adult, are available in audio, braille and print/braille formats.

This service also offers equipment that patrons may borrow, free of charge, to use for talking books and magazines. For example, digital talking-book machines provide high-quality sound, offer variable speed controls, and have built-in audio instructions. Accessories for the digital talking-book machines include lightweight headphones, a pillow speaker, adapters for commercial USB flash drives and a breath switch.

Additionally, readers with significant hearing loss may request amplified headphones. Individuals can also play books and magazines on digital cartridges sent to them via mail or download them to a computer or mobile device using the Braille and Audio Reading Download mobile app. The app is a web-based service that provides access to thousands of special-format books, magazines, and music materials. The same materials offered on digital cartridge are also available for download in compressed audio or braille formats. With the mobile app, readers may download and play talking books on their smartphones and tablets. Braille readers may also download and read materials using a refresh-able braille display with a Bluetooth connection.

The program also offers the world’s largest collection of special-format music instructional and appreciation materials, which consists of scores, textbooks, and books in braille and large print. Music appreciation materials on a wide variety of topics, along with self-instruction for voice, piano, organ, keyboard, guitar, recorder, accordion, banjo, harmonica, and other instruments, are available on cartridges or can be downloaded from with the app..

For more details or to contact the library in your area, call 1-888-NLS-READ or go online to

About the authors: James Zipadelli is a technical writer for VA and Meredith Beckhardt works at the Library of Congress.


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Published on Apr. 5, 2018

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