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Talking Book and Braille Service: Eligibility and Applications

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The Andrew Heiskell Library operates a books-by-mail program that delivers thousands of recorded and braille titles postage-free. Residents of all ages in New York City and Long Island are eligible for these services if they have difficulty reading standard printed materials because of one or more of the following:

  • blindness
  • visual impairment
  • a physical disability that limits their ability to hold a book or turn pages
  • a reading disability (such as dyslexia) resulting from organic dysfunction

Applications for service must include certification by an appropriate authority, such as social workers, rehabilitation therapists, and professionals in various fields related to health care. At their discretion, librarians familiar with an applicant and who can determine that the applicant is eligible for service according to the requirements listed, may do the certifying, except for learning disabilities which require certification from a medical doctor or doctor of osteopathy. All certification must include the certifier's name, affiliation, address, telephone number, and original signature. Family members may not certify applicants.

Reading or Learning Disabilities Eligibility Requirements

Public Law 89-522 states that materials will be loaned to readers "certified by competent authority as unable to read normal printed material as a result of physical limitations, under regulations prescribed by the Librarian of Congress for this service." The current federal regulation for this program is in the Federal Register for June 7, 1974, as amended October 2, 1981. Individuals with reading disabilities are not expressly covered by this statute. Under Public Law 89-522, only persons whose reading disabilities are physically based are eligible for the NLS talking book program. The reading or learning disability must be certified by a competent authority before the applicant can receive service. Competent authorities for the certification of reading or learning disabilities are Medical Doctors or Doctors of Osteopathy. For more information, you may read the National Library Service Factsheet: Talking Books and Reading Disabilities.

Geographic Area

Eligible residents of New York City and Long Island may receive braille and audio materials through the Andrew Heiskell Library.

Residents of New York State who do not live in New York City or Long Island, may get braille or talking book service through the New York State Library: Talking Book and Braille Library, Cultural Education Center, Albany, NY 12230-0001; telephone: (518) 474-5935, toll-free: (800) 342-3688.

Residents outside New York State may receive service through the Regional Library serving their area. Consult the National Library Service's 'Find a Library' webpage.

Application Forms and Instructions

Applications for the braille and talking books by mail program are available free at your neighborhood branch library, or download one of the applications below. The filled-out applications must be brought to the library or emailed, faxed, or mailed to Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library, 40 West 20 Street, NY, NY, 10011-4211.

Application for Free Library Service for Individuals - ADULT (over 18 years old)

Application for Free Library Service - YOUNG ADULT (ages 12-18)

Application for Free Library Service - CHILDREN (birth – 11 years old)

Application for Free Library Service - SCHOOLS

Application for Free Library Service - INSTITUTIONS