March is National Reading Month - There's an App for That!

Published: March 12, 2018

By: Sharon Whalen, SilverSmartTM technology associate, Lutheran SeniorLife

Many seniors struggle to read due to age-related eye disorders such as macular degeneration, cataracts or glaucoma. Options available for those with difficulty reading usually include large print books, talking books or eReaders.

There are now several free apps that allow anyone who may be struggling to read to have access to books. The books are in an electronic format and can be downloaded to a mobile device.

The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) and the National Federation of the Blind both offer FREE apps that allow anyone with a vision impairment to have access to books, magazines, newspapers, weather and even music.

BARD Mobile is a service of the NLS. The app provides access to braille and talking books directly from the NLS Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD). It contains nearly 80,000 books, magazines and music scores in audio and braille formats, with new selections added daily.

With BARD Mobile, you can play the audio materials on your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. If your device is connected to a refreshable braille display through Bluetooth, you can also read the braille materials available on BARD.

Before you can use the BARD Mobile app, you must be registered with a braille and talking-book library in the NLS network of cooperating libraries. If you aren’t registered but think you qualify for this service because you cannot read regular print as a result of a visual or physical disability, locate your local library for the blind and physically handicapped or call 1-800-NLS-READ to apply for service.

Once you are registered, you may then sign up for a BARD account and receive your BARD user name and password. Download the free app and sign in to get started. You will only need to do this the first time you use the app. The app contains a user manual that you can access through the HELP feature.

The NLS, Library of Congress, administers the braille and talking-book program, a free library service available to residents of the United States and its territories and American citizens living abroad whose low vision, blindness or physical disability makes reading regular print difficult. Through its national network of cooperating libraries, NLS mails digital audio players and books and magazines in audio and braille, directly to enrollees at no cost. Music instructional materials are available in large print, braille and recorded formats. Select materials are also available online for download.

NFB-NEWSLINE® Mobile, a free service for the print disabled provides the text of more than 400 newspapers, 50 magazines, emergency weather alerts and seven day forecasts, personalized television listings and now retail ads.

The services is available to anyone who is blind, visually impaired or print-disabled. Included in the services are 10 national newspapers like the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and USA Today; 16 breaking news sources including CNN, BBC and ESPN Online; 14 international newspapers including Financial Times and Vancouver Sun; county and state newspapers; and magazines like Reader’s Digest, Time, Guideposts, PC World and more. A complete list of available publications is available at

Another feature of NFB-NEWSLINE® Mobile is the localized weather alerts. Have you heard the emergency alert tone on the television but are unable to read the message scrolling on the screen? Now you can simply sign into NFB-NEWSLINE® and the text of the alert will be read to you on the spot. Any available weather alerts will be provided as soon as you sign into NFB-NEWSLINE®. NFB-NEWSLINE® Mobile now uses your device’s GPS, so your weather alerts and forecasts go with you wherever you go.

NFB-NEWSLINE® also has TV listings so you can keep track of your favorite shows, and receive the latest retail ads.

To use the app, you must be a NFB-NEWSLINE® subscriber with a valid identification and security code. The app may be installed and used on up to five devices. To learn more about NFB-NEWSLINE® and how you can sign up, visit or call (866) 504-7300.

If you would like to meet with one of our low vision specialists to discuss your specific eye concerns, please call (724) 452-3580.

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