Years ago I found a storage room full of cassette tapes and plastic mailers from a time when Word & Way used to provide an audio version for the visually impaired, a service made possible through the Wolfner Talking Books and Braille Library.
So when I recently heard a presentation about the library by Youth Services Librarian Lisa Hellman and Special Services Librarian Amy Nickless, I already knew about the library and its services. Or I thought I did.
Wolfner Library is part of a nationwide network of libraries serving all 50 states, providing free services for those who cannot use print materials because of blindness, visual impairment or other disability such as dyslexia. More than 10 percent of Americans are eligible. Fewer than 10 percent of books published each year are accessible to them.
Wolfner Library currently has more than 7,000 patrons, from ages 1 to 105.Institutions and schools can also utilize the services that include reading programs, book clubs and youth programs.
Certification by an eye doctor, counselor or librarian, among others, is required to become a patron. New patrons are eligible for free loan of audio and braille books, including the Bible, and two types of players. Film and television program DVDs can also be obtained with narration.
Not all materials must be mailed. At Wolfner, eight Missouri newspapers are available by phone, and a variety of magazines are available in different formats. Digital audio downloads are provided with 24-hour availability.
Wolfner offers online search (wolfpac.sos.mo.gov/klasweb), recommended reading lists and reference assistance. A recording studio on the premises allows the library to record titles by Missouri authors and settings, along with Missouri award-winning books such as the MASL Readers Awards.
Patrons can have titles automatically sent using preferences and exclusion filters for titles by author and reading level, or that omit strong language or foreign accents.
If you know someone who has reading or visual impairments and that may not be aware of these services, share the word.
A former media specialist, Ken Satterfield is advertising and marketing coordinator for Word & Way.
KNFB Reader app for Android and iOS (Converts printed documents into synthetic speech)
NLS Libraries for the Blind (by state)
Getting started with Web accessibility (Web Accessibility Index) - Tools to evaluate your website