Accessible Online Libraries and museums

How would you like to browse through hundreds of books and artwork, while visiting some of the world's most accessible libraries and museums without leaving your chair? The following is a list of online libraries and museums that are accessible to people who are blind, or visually impaired. The first two libraries recently won The biennial Jodi Mattes Accessibility Awards for website accessibility in museums, libraries and archives; (2005).

  • Library and Information Services, Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead:

    This website provides audio extracts of some 500 audio books, allowing visually impaired people - and every user - to choose their prefered narrator.


    The Revealweb library catalogue brings together over 100,000 materials for the first time in accessible formats. It can be used by the public and library staff alike, and makes finding out about reading materials considerably easier for visually impaired people.

  • the Museum of Modern Art, New York:

    the Museum of Modern Art now offers free audio guides to its collection and temporary exhibitions. "MoMA Audio" includes guides intended for the general public, for children 5 to 10 and for the visually impaired. The museum also has free audio files drawn from the program that can be listened to and downloaded onto MP3 devices from its Web site.

  • The Norton Public Library:

    The Norton Public Library through its membership in the SAILS Library Network has launched an online digital library that offers patrons immediate access to e-Book and Audio book titles. SAILS is the first library network in Massachusetts to offer OverDrive Audio Books in Microsoft Windows Media Audio format. Norton residents can now download, listen and enjoy unabridged spoken word audio on their PCs, laptops, PDAs and many inexpensive MP3 players.

    The online collection is available at The portable digital format of e-Books and Audio books offers countless advantages for business travelers and students, It's a valuable tool for those learning to read and gives the visually impaired even greater access to materials. users also find the fact that there is no need to return items extremely convenient; when the loan period is over the file expires and the materials are automatically checked back in. Access couldn't be easier. Using your Norton library card, library users can check out and download a variety of titles including popular fiction, business and reference titles and read them on their phones, Pocket PCs or listen to them on their MP3 players. OverDrive, Inc., a leading worldwide digital media vendor, developed the technology and supplies e-Book and audio titles to SAILS' new digital library.

  • Read Easily: Ebooks Online Library:

    A digital library "designed to provide you an adaptive reading experience! Just click above on 'set display' and select the font size, font color and background color." It's not a very extensive collection, but what's there will be valued by people with low vision.

  • The Canadian Digital Library:

    The Canadian Digital Library is one of the most advanced online libraries of alternative formats in the world. It is a model for 175 international libraries producing alternative-format information for people who are blind or visually impaired.

    Highlights of the online digital library include:

    • Accessible. The CNIB Digital Library was designed from the outset to ensure it met the accessibility needs of people who are blind or visually impaired. It works with major adaptive technology products including screen reading products and braille displays.
    • Comprehensive and easy to use. All of the Library^D>'s online services including the CNIB catalogue and digital repository of books are on one unified, bilingual, Internet gateway.
    • Vast repository. More than 10,000 audio, text, and braille titles are available online for instant reading. Clients can search and order from a collection of more than 60,000 titles.
    • Exciting new access. Clients can listen to a CNIB Library talking book (with human voice narration) right from their computer simply by selecting a link for the title of that book.
    • Newspapers, magazines, databases. Full-text versions of thousands of magazines and databases and the current editions of more than 40 daily national and community newspapers are available.
    • The Children^D>'s Discovery Portal. Children who are blind or visually impaired will be able to play online games, participate in online polls, get homework help, read books online, and chat with other kids across the country. For some, this may be the first opportunity they have ever had to meet another child who is blind.

    To try out the CNIB Digital Library, visit the Web link below, and select the "guest" option on the login screen. Some functions are for CNIB Library clients only and require a password to access.

    If you would like to register, or receive a tutorial, contact:

    Canadian Digital Library
    Toll Free: 800-268-8818
    Phone: 414-480-7668

  • The Connecticut State Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped:

    The Connecticut State Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped contains about 55,000 different titles allowing anyone who may have a difficult time reading the printed word to receive books on tape on a regular basis. About 80 percent of their patrons are seniors who are not legally blind but have some type of problem reading.

    Patrons sign up through an application process that includes a recommendation from a social or health care worker. The patrons discuss their reading preferences with a reader advisor who can offer tips and suggestions on a variety of reading topics.

    On a regular basis, patrons are shipped books on tape directly to their homes. The tapes are specially designed to allow for more chapters than an average book on tape. They listen to the books with specially-designed tape players provided by the library.

    Every step of the process is free of charge to patrons, including the shipping of the tapes back and forth from the library.

    The library has over 200,000 items with more than 60,000 titles. It also has books in Braille and twin vision books that have print and Braille so that parents or grandparents can read books together.

    The library is used by patrons from around the state. Patrons do not come to the library to check out books however they can receive extensive catalogs of titles in print or on tape to review which selections they would like.

    For more information on the Connecticut State Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, call (860) 566-2151 or (800) 842-4516.

  • The International Electronic Book Library:

    The International Electronic Braille Book Library, is a project of the International Braille Research Center. It is a collection of Braille Electronic Books -- over one thousand book titles from different nations and cultures.

    There are two ways to read the books in this collection:

    1. You can read them online if you have access to a Refreshable Braille Display.
    2. You can download the book files into a disk to read off-line. For instance, you can load the book into devices such as Braille notetakers, or you can make a hard copy of the book using a braille printer.
    The International Electronic Braille Book Library allows you to download individual parts of a book, an entire book, or an entire collection of books by a specific author. These electronic braille books are ascii text files, which appear as grade II English Braille when displayed.

  • National Library for the Blind (UK):

    The National Library for the Blind (NLB) is a registered charity providing a free postal service to blind and partially sighted people worldwide. NLB houses Europe's largest collection of tactile books and music and offers a range of innovative electronic library and information services via the website at

    Discussion boards, which can be found at, give visitors the chance to air their views on reading, technology, libraries, books and lots more! They are hoping that the discussion boards will allow NLB members and site visitors to discuss the issues they feel are important. It will hopefully give people a forum to chat about reading and to swap useful ideas and tips - they are open to new topic suggestions too, and look forward to hearing feedback from users of the boards.

    The discussion boards are a major part of NLB-Online which also includes access to various library services, plus a free accessible information service menu which includes:

    • Jobstuff: Jobstuff is an online discussion forum where you can come and discuss topics related to employment for visually impaired people.
    • the Vision Support Guide: Information about eye conditions, services and useful organisations for visually impaired people and those who support them.
    • A-sites: Links to hundreds of accessible websites from high street shopping and finance to sport and technology. Browse the list and make your own suggestions.

    The site also includes E-reference services including free access to online newspapers, magazines, dictionaries and encyclopaedias. To register, send an email to .

    For further information on the National Library for the Blind please contact Claire Briscoe, Press and Public Relations Officer, in the UK at 0161 355 2050 or via email at

  • the Perkins Braille and Talking Book Library:

    For the 17,000 Massachusetts residents who cannot see or handle a standard printed page, the Perkins Braille and Talking Book Library provides a way to keep reading. The library is affiliated with the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress. Anyone who is blind, visually impaired, or who has a physical or reading or learning disability may apply to use the library. An estimated 175,000 people in Massachusetts are eligible for this program, but just 19,000 - only 10 percent - of these people are BTBL patrons.

    An indispensable part of the talking book program are the special four-track cassette players and the volunteers who keep them humming. A group of South Shore volunteers, the Telcomm Pioneers, keep the talking book players running for the thousands of patrons of the Perkins Braille and Talking Book Library. More than 140,000 talking book machines nationwide are repaired by volunteers each year. The $5 million in repairs saved by these volunteers is used to provide more talking book titles.

    The Perkins Library offers over 62,000 book titles on tape and 100 magazine subscriptions in English and many foreign languages. Registered users may borrow talking books and related equipment, Braille books, large print books and audio-described videos in person or through the mail. Library borrowers also access Newsline, through which they can listen to over 150 daily newspapers via touch-tone telephone.

    For an application or more information, use the contact information below.

    Perkins School for the Blind
    175 North Beacon Street
    Watertown, Massachusetts 02472
    Phone: 617-924-3434
    Fax: 617-926-2027

  • The KnowUK Library Resource:

    KnowUK is a unique online service developed to provide libraries with a complete collection of current, useful and UK-specific reference information from over 100 of the most widely used reference publications in the UK.

  • Project Bartleby:

    Named after Herman Melville's short story "Bartleby, The Scrivener," Project Bartleby [now just called] is an online library developed at Columbia University. Project Bartleby was the first site in the world to publish the entire contents of a classic novel (Whitman's "Leaves of Grass") on the web. The site proclaims it is the "preeminent Internet publisher of literature, reference and verse providing students, researchers and the intellectual curious with unlimited access to books and information on the web, free of charge." And the site has a lot more than the 11 books with which they started. In fact, now has a searchable database of over 370,000 web pages, including the largest database of quotations ever published (over 86,000 quotations) and the largest freely available verse database (over 10,000 poems).

    So many high-quality sites have disappeared from the net over the past 10 years. It's nice to see that one of the best reference sites in the world is still going strong.

  • National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS):

    Web-Braille is the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) system for distributing books via the internet. Grade 2 braille books are available to download or online use by eligible individuals, libraries, and schools with braille embossers, refreshable braille displays and other braille-aware devices. To retrieve Web-Braille files, one can use whatever braille equipment and browser with which one is most comfortable.

    Web-Braille contains over 2,600 braille books beginning with BR8827. NLS will continue to add new books to Web-Braille as the press copies are approved for shipment. New books are accessed through the online version of Braille Book Review (BBR). BBR will include links to the Web-Braille versions of titles listed.

    To get a user ID for Web-Braille, contact your local NLS library. You will be asked to select a password and provide an e-mail address.

  • Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD), from NLS:

    NLS has hosted a pilot site for the downloading of books for the blind and visually impaired. NLS appreciates all who have participated in the pilot test. Your feedback has allowed them to continuously improve the original site and to look into many expansions, such as the inclusion of braille books. The pilot phase has ended, and this site has been launched.

  • The Museum of Broadcast Communications:

    The Museum of Broadcast Communications is one of three museums devoted to broadcast in the USA and is home to the Radio Hall of Fame. Learn more about the Museum's history by mousing over the "Museum" tab and clicking "About Us". In the About Us section you'll also notice on the side a section called "Explore More-there you can find the link to the Encyclopedia of TV.

    Encyclopedia of TV - in this section you can browse the first two editions and check out the Encyclopedia of Radio and Advertising from links within the section.

    Back up at the Menu you'll see Collection, Exhibitions, and Education. I'd like to tell you about these sections some as well.

    Collection - See newly added articles to the collection with Recent Additions, or search the archives for something more interesting.

    Exhibitions - Check out the Great Debate and Beyond where you can trace the history of televised Presidential Debates, or head over to the Radio Hall of Fame and check out all those who've gotten admitted into the hall of fame.

    Education - that's what museums are for right? To keep us educated and preserve the past, well, this is where you can learn about incorporating this site into your teaching plans, or just learn some new and interesting things.


Wouldn't it be great if you could talk to a librarian while searching through these online libraries and museums? The following short list is just a small sample of where you can turn to have your information needs met by professional librarians.

Main Gallery of the Museum at APH

APH Museum

The history of the education of people who are blind is presented in APH's unique multi-media museum. Artifacts, photos, and electronic displays present such topics as the development of braille, the history of the braillewriter, and the history of Talking Books. All displays are accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired. To tour the museum online go to

Museum Hours

8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday-Friday, except holidays.

APH Facility

APH is located in the historic Louisville neighborhood known as Clifton, with easy access to nearby I-64, I-65, and I-71. Motor coach parking is available on the street. Our building is wheelchair accessible.

For more tour information, contact the APH Public Affairs Department at 502-895-2405, ext. 356 or 1-800-223-1839.

American Printing House for the Blind, Inc.
1839 Frankfort Avenue
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 6085
Louisville, Kentucky 40206-0085
Toll Free: 800-223-1839
Phone: 502-895-2405
Fax: 502-899-2274
Web site:

Online Access to Talking Book Archives

The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) has launched its web-based Talking Book Archives, celebrating the birth of the Talking Book. Thanks to a generous grant from the Carnegie Foundation, who funded AFB's first efforts to use audio technology for blind readers in 1932, an electronic finding aid to this historic collection is now available online. The archival finding aid is accompanied by a multimedia exhibit, including audio clips from celebrated narrators, letters, press clippings, and photographs from the collection. This exhibit was funded by The New York Times Company Foundation.

Visitors to the website will find various informative sections that focus on AFB's work with Talking Books over the past 75 years:

  • The AFB Talking Book Exhibit section uses images of letters, advertisements, and photographs, as well as audio clips, to explain how the idea of the Talking Book became a reality.
  • The AFB Talking Book Archives section offers a fully accessible electronic guide to the Talking Book archival collection and allows scholars, archivists, and other visitors to search the collection and view selected scanned images of items that are transcribed and fully accessible.
  • Visitors can help AFB honor 75 years of Talking Books by posting thoughts and memories in the Post Your Tributes section.

The development of Talking Books was a crucial step in providing access to books and information to people with vision loss. This invaluable service continues today through the work of the Library of Congress' National Library Service for the Blind and Visually Handicapped.

Click this link to visit the Talking Book Archives at


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