There are several services that can provide an audio book reader for those who are visually impaired or blind. Some of the audio book services are free, while others require a subscription or other fees. Additionally, you may need to purchase a proprietary device to use the audio books. There is, however, one free service that provides a reliable audio book reader for the visually impaired along with access to many books.

The National Library Service provides free braille and audio books for blind, visually impaired and print disabled readers. Each state has at least one designated library to provide this service to its residents at no charge. The audio books are available to readers for download, or, you can get a physical cartridge mailed to you. These libraries will provide readers with an audio book machine that will play the cartridges.

The audio book reader is relatively easy to use and requires very little maintenance. It is a self-contained unit and operates without being connected to a computer. If you find that your audio book reader is no longer working well, your library can exchange the machine or replace the battery for you.  It is very convenient, and it is free!

A second device that can read books for the blind and visually impaired is something that you may already have in your possession—your smartphone! If you already have a smartphone or tablet, you may use it to download and listen to audio books from various sources, including the National Library Service. These services all have apps that turn your phone into a portable, reliable audio book reader.

If you are looking for a free service that provides both the audio books and the player, contact your local National Library Service cooperating library. For Southern California residents, Braille Institute Library Services is your resource for these materials. Call Braille Institute today at 1-800-808-2555 to get started.

See Braille’s free Low Vision Awareness Month workshops.