Have you heard?  There’s a new app in town for eligible patrons of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS).  It’s called the Braille and Audio Reading Download app or the BARD app for short.  It is accessible via iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch as well as the web and will allow users to download and read NLS Braille and talking books directly from their device.

Access to BARD is restricted to eligible readers (patrons or institutions) who are in good standing of the NLS.  A login ID and password is needed to access BARD and to acquire those an application must be filled out online.  If approved, you will receive an email with your sign-on information.

I first learned about BARD from Lydia Peters at the Northwest Georgia Talking Book Library Center in Rome.  During the consolidation of Talking Book Centers that happened several years ago, Rome took on our coverage area in addition to their own.  With the consolidation of more Talking Book Centers looming in the future, it’s very important that local libraries become community contact points for NLS services—they should have access to and be able to help the blind or physically handicapped patrons in their area access these resources.  Resources such as where to find and where to send NLS applications, BARD on the web, the BARD mobile Application User Guide, NLS BARD FAQ, and the BARD Mobile “How to” Video Series

Mrs. Peters was able to give us a demonstration of the mobile app in action.  Once your ID and password has been entered—and it only needs to be done once—you will open to the main screen which has four tabs:  Bookshelf, Get Books, Now Reading, and Settings.  From the “Get Books” tab you can download materials from your personal BARD wish list and from the BARD recently added books and magazines list—you can also search the BARD website.  Once you find a title you want to read you add it to your wish list.  Then you can download it from the “My Wish List” section of the tab.  (*Tip* If using an iPhone, you may want to download over Wi-Fi to save data charges.)  Once your book is downloaded, go to “Bookshelf”, and select your book.  The “Now Reading” tab will open.  If the item you chose in in audio format, you will find the same basic layout of controls as the digital talking book machine with additional navigational options.  If the item selected is in Braille format, the navigation controls will include Previous, Next, and a Menu button which allows you to skip through the item by page, volume, bookmark, and line, and a Bookmark button to set bookmarks.  If you’re using Voice Over, you can listen to the prompts that are spoken each time you touch a control which can help a user learn the various gestures to use.

As mentioned before, this is a great way for our libraries to act as community contact points for NLS and at the same time meeting the needs of our patrons within this demographic in our communities.  Libraries can participate by filling out an NLS Institution application for their branch and by having an iPad or iPad mini with the BARD app downloaded to show an eligible user how to access their BARD account or just to meet their device needs in general.  By having these devices for use within our libraries for this portion of our patron demographic, we also meet the criteria needed for coverage under the Americans with Disabilities Act  Section 508 for the Rehabilitation Act which refers to access to digital information and technologies by people with disabilities.  In essence, it’s not only something we are required to do but something we should want to do to for the betterment of our community.

*A special thank to Lydia Peters from the Northwest Georgia Talking Book Library Center in Rome for her helpful information concerning the BARD mobile app.

Wendy Cobb
Library Systems Administrator & Technical Coordinator
Cherokee Regional Library System