People who have trouble reading standard print books due to visual or other physical disabilities have a new tool at their disposal: An application that allows them to download books and magazines in audio and digital braille formats onto mobile devices free of charge.
The new BARD Mobile application is compatible with Apple iOS operating systems for versions 4.3 or later. These include iPhones of version 3 or later, iPod Touch versions 4 or later, and all versions of iPad.
The application was developed by the National Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, which is part of the Library of Congress. Tennessee users must already be registered to use the Tennessee Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped's Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) service in order to use the application.
Using a BARD user identification number and password, users can download the BARD Mobile application from the Apple App store. That will allow access to BARD's web page, where books can be downloaded immediately.
There are more than 34,000 audio books and 12,000 digital braille books available for download through BARD with new titles being added daily. This includes a selection of more than 120 audio books in 10 different foreign languages.
The BARD web page has been operational since 2010. Prior to the release of the new mobile application, users were able to download books onto personal computers. Those files could then be retrieved and transferred to a digital talking book player or MP3 device designed especially for the blind and visually impaired.
The new application does not require files to be transferred. They can be downloaded and played on the same device, which makes BARD's service easier to use.
BARD's service has become increasingly popular. In the fiscal year that ended September 30, more than 62,000 books and magazines were downloaded by users – an increase of 29 percent over the previous fiscal year. The total number of BARD patrons increased 12 percent over the same time period.
"BARD is a wonderful service that makes books and magazines available to people who have difficulty reading standard print books," Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. "This new mobile application should make the service even more popular since it’s easier to use. This is one more way we are trying to use technology to provide better service to our customers, the citizens of Tennessee."
The Tennessee Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped is part of the Tennessee State Library and Archives, which is a division within the Secretary of State's office.