Bridges Resource Library


Updated as of February 4, 2024.

What Are NLS and BARD?

The U.S. federal government, through the Library of Congress, offers individuals with print disabilities the opportunity to obtain books in accessible formats (braille, enlarged print, and digital) through the National Library Service for the Blind and Print-disabled (commonly known as “NLS”). This service is completely free of charge to eligible individuals.

Hard copy braille and enlarged print books will be mailed to you via Free Matter, and you mail them back (for free) when you are finished with them. Members of NLS may also download accessible digital books and magazines (both audio and braille) on the internet or from an approved mobile device (which the library can provide to you).

NLS also offers digital downloads of accessible materials through its BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download) program. Like hard copy materials, BARD’s digital materials are available at no cost to patrons.

Am I Eligible?

U.S. citizens with print disabilities include individuals who cannot read standard print materials because of vision-related disabilities, reading disabilities, or physical disabilities.

Note that there are no age requirements for NLS eligibility.

Only one of these disabilities is required for eligibility, and this disability can be certified by a “competent authority,” such as a doctor, a teacher, a librarian, and other similar professionals.

How Do I Apply?

Typically, individuals apply for NLS at their regional library. In Maryland, this is the Maryland State Library for the Blind and Print Disabled (MBPD) in Baltimore. You may call them at (410) 230-2424 or at (410) 333-8679 for TTY. You may also download the MBPD Application for Free Library Service, complete it offline, and send it in via MBPD Reference Desk email, by fax to (410) 333-2095, or by mail to: Maryland State Library for the Blind and Print Disabled, 415 Park Avenue, Baltimore, Maryland 21201.

Remember, your teacher, librarian, doctor, and others are qualified to certify that you are eligible for this service. Once you have become an NLS patron, you may access BARD resources on the BARD log in web page.

If you do not live in Maryland, you may find your local library on NLS’s Find Your Library web page.

Contact the Bridges Helpdesk for More Information

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

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