by Stephanie Wambaugh, Youth and Outreach Librarian, Braille and Talking Book Library
Thanks to U.S. Senate Bill 3207, passed by the House and Senate in July, service for Braille and Taking Book Library patrons will expand in the near future.
The bill, introduced by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), amends existing law to generalize the types of equipment that can legally be purchased, maintained, and replaced for library patrons through the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS). This essentially allows NLS to use future funding on refreshable electronic braille displays for patrons. Braille displays (sometimes also referred to as braille readers) allow users the ability to read braille from a device connected to a computer keyboard. This greatly speeds up braille access.
Prior to this bill, NLS was limited in how it provided braille materials to patrons. Typically, patrons received braille in print format from the library. These books are costly to produce and ship, and they are quite large for libraries and patrons to store. Braille files in electronic format now are available to NLS patrons. This option previously remained underutilized by patrons because braille displays are costly and many cannot afford this technology. Now, thanks top the Schumer bill, this will hopefully change.
We eagerly await more news on how NLS plans to move forward with this exciting opportunity for expanding ways people with disabilities can access to the information they desire, in the format they prefer. As the NLS slogan goes, "So That All May Read."