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BARD Mobile App for Apple Devices

People who are blind, visually impaired or have a physical disability may now download audio and braille books to their iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. The Library of Congress' National Library Service (NLS) has developed an app for these devices that is available to members of Talking Books Plus, Rhode Island's Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.

The Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) Mobile app is now available through the Apple App Store. The app, which is free, allows readers to download audio and braille books from their NLS BARD accounts. BARD contains nearly 87,000 books, magazines and music scores in audio and braille formats, with new selections added daily. Download the free app and sign in with your BARD user name and password. You'll only need to do this the first time you use the app. The app contains a user guide that will guide you through the various features of BARD Mobile.

"The Rhode Island Office of Library and Information Services Talking Books Program is excited about the opportunity BARD Mobile brings to our community," said Andrew Egan, Regional Librarian. "We have patrons who have already acquired the app."

NLS Director Karen Keninger said, "The BARD Mobile app allows searching, downloading and reading braille and talking books and magazines on one fully accessible, mainstream device. It's a library in your pocket."

She explained, "With BARD Mobile, patrons can play talking books and magazines on their iOS devices. Patrons may also read electronic braille books, magazines and music scores using a refreshable braille display connected to their iPhone, iPad or iPod touch through Bluetooth." Patrons will be able to receive their reading materials faster and won't have to be weighted down with bulky volumes or playback equipment.

NLS has provided free library service for people who have visual disabilities for more than 80 years and for people with physical disabilities since 1966. Best known as the talking-book program, NLS upgraded its analog program to digital in 2009.

"Audiobooks are provided on cartridges for use with digital playback equipment that provides high-level navigation capability, high-quality sound and other features, which are provided without cost to the reader," Keninger said. "Around the same time, NLS launched BARD, which permitted patrons who had access to high-speed Internet to download their audiobooks, as braille readers had been doing with the Web-Braille system since 1999. BARD now merges the two systems.

"BARD Mobile is another benchmark in our use of technology to enhance the delivery and reading experience of NLS patrons," Keninger said. "NLS developed the BARD Mobile app in response to demand from our borrowers. Blind and disabled Americans are as keen as everyone else to use mobile devices. Our younger patrons are particularly eager to use the same gadgets as their peers." NLS is also working on an app for Android devices.

BARD Mobile will make reading not only more accessible, but more portable. "We anticipate that significant numbers of readers will adopt the app as their primary reading device," Keninger said. "As a growing percentage of blind and disabled Americans adopt mobile devices, the app will provide a highly valued avenue to NLS materials."

Eligible users in Rhode Island may find the free braille and talking-book program even more attractive now. Egan says, "Please contact the Rhode Island Office of Library and Information Services Talking Books Plus Program to learn more about this program.

Talking Books Plus is a program of the Rhode Island Office of Library and Information Services and is supported in part through funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and materials and resources provided by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress.