FAIRFIELD COUNTY — Do words look a little blurry even when wearing reading glasses? Is vision loss causing the pastime of reading to be something one must now avoid?
That need not be the case.
People with low vision or other health problems that make it impossible for them to use standard print media have options, thanks to the State Library’s Talking Books Program.
According to Sandy Knowles, director of talking book services, there are 65 people registered and 27 active patrons in Fairfield County who use the service.
The program’s technology is changing for the better, she said.
In the past four-sided cassette tapes were used to store the books, but now the cassettes are no longer being made. Instead, the books are being stored in a digital format. The program’s goal is to have phased out all talking book cassettes by the year 2015.
Registered library patrons with qualified condition that is a visual or physical handicap qualify for the program. A health care worker, social services worker, therapist or even a librarian can vouch for the patron and help him or her fill out the required paperwork. The one exception is if the patron has dyslexia, because a medical doctor is needed to certify them.
The digital books are all audio. Knowles said the library has a collection of large print books for patrons who prefer that media. The S.C. State Library also partners with the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped and serves as a consolidated regional library for the federal program.
According to Knowles, the new digital player is much less cumbersome than the old audio tapes were. Books are stored on a USB drive with a special casing that makes it easier for people with visual difficulties to handle. The USB port is on the side of the device.
When a reader stops with a book, the machine remembers that location and resumes again from that point when the reader resumes. The machines have a 27-hour battery life. Talk-through options assist patrons in finding the buttons they need to press to operate the equipment.
The new books are in the BARD — Braille and Audio Reading Download — format, which provides Web-Braille access for blind patrons as well. Web Braille refreshes itself, making it possible for people to read online or to read material they download from the web. The South Carolina library is a portal to the www.bard.com, which is maintained by the National Service to the Blind.
This free service is available for the blind or the physically handicapped, according to Knowles.
“It especially has proven helpful to young people with reading disabilities such as dyslexia,” she said.
For more information about BARD and other Talking Book services, contact Sandy Knowles, Talking Book Services Director at 803-734-8650 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the State Library’s Talking Book Services web site at http://www.statelibrary.sc.gov/Talking-Book-Services/.