Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

A World of Books on the Go: National Library Service BARD Introduces Mobile Apps for Users Who Are Visually Impaired or Have Physical and Reading Disabilities

by Amy Gendreau, RDPFS Intern:

The Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) system of the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS) brings the many worlds of books and stories, as well as music, magazines, and podcasts, to people who are blind or visually impaired or have  other disabilities. BARD is now available as a mobile app and can be accessed by clicking a link to download. This move was initiated under Jason Broughton, who became the eleventh director of the NLS in September, 2021. The NLS has steadily expanded its digital content and material, up to 120,000 titles in 2024, and increases its download offerings on a monthly basis. New offerings are featured on the “Recently Added” page under the “Book Collection” tab. “All of this has been from the very start provided free of charge to our patrons. Always imagining what the future can bring, we continue to explore ways to leverage the latest technology to improve our service to patrons and expand our collections,” explained Broughton. Established in 1931 by an act of Congress, the NLS originally provided books as vinyl records. Since then, we’ve seen the advent of cassettes, compact disks, MP3 CDs, Digital Audio Tapes (DAT), and, finally, downloadable MP3, WAV and WMA files. “Since its establishment in 1931, NLS has had one mission: to ensure that a disability is no barrier to one’s opportunity to experience the joy of reading.” As a relatively new user of the BARD system, I have found the overall experience to be straightforward and efficient. Applications to enroll in NLS are provided online and initial launch links are sent to the applicant’s email. Once an account has been initiated, the mobile application is ready for use.

Find Out More About NLS and BARD

To learn more and download the BARD mobile apps, visit the following links: For iOS, the App Store, and for Android, the Google Play page. Details on BARD are described on the NLS webpage with NLS BARD: Frequently Asked Questions. Additional information on the NLS is available on the webpage with the “Directors Welcome” and an Overview. Details about audio formats are included on the Wikipedia page discussing Audiobooks.