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Talking Book and Braille Service: Eligibility and Applications


A tween boy wearing headphones sits at a table with his fingers poised over the buttons of a digital talking book machine. A patron site with his daughter by an open book featuring print, braille, and images.The daughter is looking at the book while the man has his hands on the braille.The back of the head of a woman wearing headphones and holding up a mobile phone, on whose screen is text, with one word highlighted in yellow.


The Andrew Heiskell Library operates a books-by-mail program that delivers thousands of recorded and braille titles postage-free.  The Talking Books are recorded by professional narrators and sent to you in a digital cartridge format on what is basically a large plastic flashdrive which can be simply inserted into the free talkinbooks machine we send you. The machine is simple to operate, with large tactile and high contrast buttons, self-speaking instructions, and allows you to adjust volume, tone, and speed, set digital bookmarks, skip ahead or back, and automatically save your place.  When you finish, the cartridge is placed back in the blue plastic box it came in, the mailing label is flipped to reveal our return address, and it is put back in the mail  - no postage needed.  Service can be set up to send titles only on request, or to automatically keep you in a steady supply of your favorite genre. We operate a reference and request hotline 6 days a week, have 24-hour voicemail and email accounts for requests, and take orders by mail as well. You can also use our online catalog to search for and order books yourself.

We also offer free access to a website where you can download any or all of our 55,000 audiobooks or digital braille files onto a flashdrive to play and keep, as well as a free app for iOS, Android, and newer Kindle Fires, to give you instant access to all our audio books and digital braille books on the go. 



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 - INDIVIDUALS
(This PDF is compatible with screenreaders. It can be filled out electronically and printed for certification.)

Application for Free Library Service - SCHOOLS 

Application for Free Library Service - INSTITUTIONS