Specialty Reading Products and Services

Your local library or electronics store isn't your only choice when shopping for digital book players or services for reading and listening. A number of specialty products and services are designed for people with vision loss. Here are some of the more popular ones:

Bookshare.org

Bookshare.org is a subscription service available exclusively to individuals with vision loss or people who have a learning disability. (You must provide proof of one or the other to join.) For an annual fee, members can download to their computers, PDAs, or specialty book players their choice of thousands of copyrighted bestsellers and periodicals. Non-members can download non-copyrighted material, such as classics by Charles Dickens and Jane Austen, free of charge.

Unlike other audio books, Bookshare titles are not read by human narrators. Rather, they produce synthetic speech based on the written text. Most computers come equipped with speech synthesizer software that can perform this function. Bookshare also enables you to read the text on your computer with the use of screen enlargement software, or on your PDA with a braille display.

Material at Bookshare.org is uploaded by volunteers—most of them blind or visually impaired themselves—and sometimes contains scanning errors, which are usually minor. To learn more, listen to an audio sample, or become a Bookshare member, go to the Bookshare website.

NFB-NEWSLINE

NFB-Newsline® is the equivalent of a news stand, but one that is available over your telephone. Created by the National Federation of the Blind, NFB-Newsline makes it possible for people with vision loss to read hundreds of different newspapers and dozens of magazines from any telephone. Here is how it works:

  • After dialing a toll-free number and logging in with your passcode, you are welcomed by a very clear voice.
  • From there, you can use your phone's keypad to access any newspaper of your choice.
  • You can skip forward or back by section, article, or sentence; have unfamiliar words spelled out to you; speed up or slow down the reading pace; and skim the headlines.

To listen to an audio sample, find out if you're eligible, and to sign up, visit the NFB-Newsline® website.

Radio Reading Services

Radio reading services are available in many parts of the country. These services employ volunteer readers to provide audio radio access to newspapers, magazines, consumer information, and other materials that may not be readily available in braille or on tape.

Listeners can tune in for the day's news, features, sports, business, opinions, advertisements, and other features. Public affairs programs are also available on many services, as are some books or story-based shows.

Volunteer reads the comics section of the newspaper for a radio reading service

Radio reading services allow
you to keep up on news and
even the comics.

Radio reading services are typically broadcast on a sub-carrier channel of an FM radio station. Listeners must have a special, pre-tuned radio receiver to pick up the closed circuit broadcast. Receivers are frequently loaned to listeners by the reading service at no cost.

Some services provide radio reading services programming on television over a SAP (Second Audio Program) channel, community cable system, or FM cable service. Many services also offer live audio streaming of their programming over the Internet while others offer access to archived readings through the Internet or telephone dial-in system.

One popular internet radio service is ACB Radio from the American Council of the Blind. You can visit the site to listen to broadcasts. For more options, go to the International Association of Audio Information Services website to find a program near you.

services icon Looking for Help?

Join Our Mission

Help us expand our resources for people with vision loss.