Please read the eligibility requirements for the answers to many questions.
To sign up for the free library service, download and send the completed application to the Wisconsin Talking Book and Braille Library by mail, email, fax or delivered in person to the WTBBL.
As part of a national network cooperating with the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS), the Wisconsin Talking Book and Braille Library (WTBBL) provides audio books and brailled materials to persons, living in Wisconsin, who cannot see regular print or handle print materials. WTBBL patrons receive and return books and equipment, postage-free through the U.S. Postal Service. WTBBL currently serves nearly 7,000 registered patrons and over 580 institutions (e.g. libraries, schools, nursing homes, veterans centers). There were 1,117 new registrations in 2018.
In addition, the WTBBL circulates audio books and brailled materials about Wisconsin or by Wisconsin authors, as was audio-described DVDs.
The NLS Talking Book Program was established by an Act of Congress in 1931. WTBBL joined the NLS network in 1961. The current digital players and cartridges replaced the cassette players and tapes in 2009. Specially-designed USB flash-drive cartridges hold one or more books or magazines. The digital players include a variety of user-friendly options including bookmark navigation controls, optional battery power for portability, and a sleep timer. Using the player’s volume, tone and speed controls, patrons enjoy easier listening. Direct downloading of digitized books, magazines and braille materials from the NLS Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) website is available. An app introduced in 2013 allows BARD downloads to iOS devices. In 2014, NLS began distributing magazines on digital cartridges.
These services are made available by NLS, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and the Milwaukee Public Library.
Wisconsin residents, who have one or more of the following reading disabilities, as certified by a competent authority, are eligible for free library services from the Wisconsin Talking Book and Braille Library:
- Visual Handicap: Inability to read standard print materials without special aids or devices other than regular glasses.
- Legal Blindness: Legal blindness is defined as having no more than 10% of normal vision in the better eye with maximum correction.
- Physical Handicap: Inability to read standard print materials as a result of physical limitations, e.g., paralysis, missing arms or hands, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, etc.
- Reading Disability: Organic dysfunction of sufficient severity as to prevent reading in a normal manner, as certified by a physician.
Services are also available to schools, hospitals, nursing homes and other institutions which serve people with qualifying handicaps.
What Services are Provided?
The Wisconsin Talking Book and Braille Library provides books and magazines in two formats: Braille and audio recorded books. The collection numbers about 200,000 items and over 40,000 different titles. Bestsellers, romances, mysteries, classics, sports and travel are just a few of the many subject areas to choose from. Materials are available for adults, young adults and children. The Wisconsin Talking Book and Braille Library also lends audio-described DVDs.
Equipment and Accessories
The library provides playback machines as well as accessories for the machines to include headphones, pillow speaker, and breath switch.
Catalogs and announcements of new books are mailed to readers in a variety of formats (large print, audio and Braille). "Talking Book Topics" and "Braille Book Review" are bimonthly publications that inform patrons of new acquisitions and related library services. The majority of patrons choose to have the library "autoselect" their reading materials, based on a profile they set up.
Patrons of the Wisconsin Talking Book and Braille Library receive a newsletter, "The Bulletin Board," which provides features, announcements, resources and updates. If you would like a WTBBL representative to make a presentation about the Talking Books program or to exhibit at a low vision, adaptive technology or other related fair or show, please call the Outreach Librarian at (414) 286-6918 (Milwaukee area) or (800) 242-8822 (toll-free within Wisconsin) or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is the Cost of the Service?
All books, equipment and services, including the mailing of materials, are free to people who cannot see or handle printed materials. Telephone service in the state of Wisconsin is also free, using the Wisconsin Talking Book and Braille Library's toll-free number (800) 242-8822. Reading materials, machines and accessories are all sent via United States Postal System at no cost to people in the program.
How can a person sign up for this Service?
Download and send the completed application to the Wisconsin Talking Book and Braille Library by mail, email, fax or delivered in person to the WTBBL.