Blindness Awareness Month Puts Spotlight On “Outspoken Library” Kiosks

TRENTON– Since 2009, October in New Jersey has been designated as Blindness Awareness Month to stress the vital importance of Braille literacy; to build awareness about the prevention, treatment and cure of blindness and other visual impairments; and to highlight the resources available through the NJ State Library Talking Book & Braille Center (TBBC) and local libraries.

“We are the source for library services that enrich the lives of those who can’t see to read a book or are unable to hold one,” said Adam Szczepaniak, director of TBBC. “Our newest initiative is to place Outspoken Library kiosks in local public libraries throughout the state. So far, we have about 40 in place.”

The kiosk is designed to enable residents who have impaired vision, a physical disability that makes it difficult to hold a book, or a learning disability, to download 800 audiobooks at the kiosk which they can play on a free listening device. Once registered for the program with TBBC, users will then be able to access the National Library Services Braille and Audio Reading (BARD) Program from home. The Bard service offers over 22,000 downloadable audiobooks and 49 magazines. The Outspoken Library kiosk is provided free to libraries, and its services are free to eligible users.

“The Outspoken Library has helped us expand our services to new, underserved populations in New Jersey, especially veterans,” added Szczepaniak. “It will help to make a difference for those who, for whatever reason, have difficulty reading printed material.”

At the local level, library staffs are available to demonstrate how the kiosk works, explain the eligibility, provide applications and explain the application process. Once certified by TBBC, users will receive a login ID and Password to access BARD at home. Users receive a free digital player provided by the Library of Congress.

Other services offered by TBBC include:

  • Providing over 82,000 books and magazines in Braille and audio formats
  • Broadcasting seven New Jersey newspapers statewide through a cable and Internet radio reading service
  • Loaning assistive technology from the NJ Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired(CBVI)
  • Administering telephone access to over 270 nationwide newspapers through CBVI-sponsored NFB-NEWSLINE
  • Offering access to the largest Braille collection in the state – 13,000 volumes

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