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Talking Books and Braille for Students: A Primer for Schools and Parents

Students with a visual or physical disability, including a reading disability which is organically based, are eligible for free Braille and talking book service. Below are answers to frequently asked questions about Braille, talking books, and other resources for students with disabilities in Michigan.
  1. Where Do I Go for Books on Tape or in Braille for My Child Who Has a Learning or Other Disability? 

  2. What Do I Need to Do to Sign Up? 

  3. What Is the Cost Involved? 

  4. Where Do I Go for Textbooks? 

  5. Where Do I Go for Recreational Reading Materials? 

  6. Why Are the Books Recorded in a "Special Format" and Why Don't They Work in a Regular Cassette Player? 

  7. Where Do I Go for the Special Cassette Player Necessary to Listen to the Books? 

  8. Where Can I Go to Look Up the Books That I Need? 

  9. Can I Order Books On-line? 

  10. Why Do We Need to Register Individually If the School My Child Attends Is Already Registered for These Services? 

  11. Do You Have Books on CD? 

I. Where Do I Go for Books on Tape for My Child Who Has a Learning or Other Disability?

There are three primary resources for educational materials in alternative format for children with disabilities in Michigan:

Braille & Talking Book Library (BTBL)
Bureau of Services for Blind Persons

702 W. Kalamazoo St.
P.O. Box 30007
Lansing, MI 48909-7507
800-992-9012

BTBL provides recreational reading materials, including books for book reports, and magazine subscriptions on cassette and in Braille. Also provides special cassette playback equipment free of charge. 

Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFBD)
20 Roszel Rd.
Princeton, NJ 08540
609-452-0606
800-221-4792

"RFBD is the nation's educational library for people with print disabilities [providing] educational materials in recorded and computerized formats from kindergarten through postgraduate level." See more about RFBD at their Web site

Michigan's Assistive Technology Resource (MATR)
1023 South U.S. 27
St. Johns, MI 48879-2424
800-274-7426
517-224-0333

"The overall purpose of Michigan's Integrated Technology Supports (MITS) is to provide information services, support materials, technical assistance, and training to local and intermediate school districts in Michigan to increase their capacity to address the needs of students with disabilities for assistive technology." See more about MITS at their Web site





II. What Do I Need to Do to Sign Up?

BTBL and RFBD require that an application be filled out and mailed in; neither can accept electronic or over-the-phone applications. Your school district is served by MATR upon request.

To obtain an application:

For children with visual or physical disabilities, the application can be certified by a number of people, including doctors, teachers, social workers and librarians. See here for a complete listing of acceptable certifying authorities. For children with reading disabilities, the certification requirement varies:

  • BTBL: "In the case of reading disability from organic dysfunction, competent authority is defined as DOCTORS OF MEDICINE AND DOCTORS OF OSTEOPATHY who may consult with colleagues in associated disciplines."
  • RFBD: "Please have this certification form completed by a qualified professional in the field of disability services, education, medicine or psychology. The certifier must be a recognized expert who attests to the physical basis of the visual, perceptual or other physical disability, which limits the applicant's use of standard print. Appropriate certifying experts may differ from disability to disability (For example, in the case of blindness and visual impairments, an appropriate certifier may be a physician, ophthalmologist, or optometrist; in the case of a perceptual disability, a neurologist, learning disability specialist, or a psychologist with a background in learning disabilities may be the most qualified certifying professional). If you are receiving services from a cooperating network library for the blind and physically handicapped [BTBL], we will accept a signature from one of its librarians."
In Other Words:
  • For BTBL you need certification from a medical or osteopathic doctor (not someone with a Ph.D.)
  • For RFBD certification can be done by your school psychologist or special ed teacher.

See the National Library Service for more detailed information about general eligibilityor reading disabilities.





III. What Is the Cost Involved?
  • BTBL is supported by federal and state dollars. Books, magazines, and cassette book players are all provided free of charge to residents of the United States and U.S. citizens abroad and travel through the regular postal service at no charge as "Free Matter for the Blind or Handicapped." It is completely without cost to the user.
  • RFBD is a non-profit organization and charges a one-time sign-up fee of $25 and a yearly membership fee of $50 for individuals. The yearly membership includes unlimited book borrowing. Playback equipment for cassettes ranges from about $100 to $200.
  • MATR operates through an IDEA State Discretionary Grant awarded by the Michigan State Board of Education. MATR loans large print and Braille materials at no charge to school districts. MATR partners with the Michigan School for the Blind to operate a print shop to produce educational materials in black-and-white large print or Braille.




IV. Where Do I Go for Textbooks?
  • BTBL does not carry textbooks.
  • For textbooks on cassette, contact RFBD at 800-221-4792.
  • For textbooks in Braille or large print, have your school district contact MATR at 800-274-7426.




V. Where Do I Go for Recreational Reading Materials?
  • BTBL, at 800-992-9012, specializes in recreational reading materials, much as a public library does. This includes books such as Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Chronicles of Narnia, and most any book your child would need for English class (The Diary of Anne Frank, Sometimes a Great Notion, 1984, The Bluest Eye, and so forth).
  • RFBD, at 800-221-4792, also carries a small collection of recreational reading materials.




VI. Why Are the Books Recorded in a "Special Format" and Why Don't They Work in a Regular Cassette Player?

To abide by copyright restrictions, BTBL and RFBD must record cassette books at the speed "15/16" rather than the standard "1 7/8." This is why they are not intelligible in a regular cassette player.





VII. Where Do I Go for the Special Cassette Player Necessary to Listen to the Books?

The special cassette player can be borrowed from BTBL at no charge. You can also buy one for about $100 to $250 at the following Web sites:





VIII. Where Can I Go to Look Up the Books That I Need?
  • You can search the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped on-line catalog for books on tape and in Braille from all over the world, including RFBD, through the Voyager catalogor call 800-992-9012.
  • You can search RFBD for their books at: http://www.RFBD.org/catalog.htmor call 800-221-4792.
  • For textbooks in Braille or large print, have your school district contact MATR at 800-274-7426.




IX. Can I Order Books On-line?
  • You can order books from BTBL using an on-line order form.
  • Please contact RFBD and MATR by phone to order materials.




X. Why Do We Need to Register Individually if the School My Child Attends Is Already Registered for These Services?
  • BTBL requires that everyone receiving service, whether they are in school, living with their families, alone, or in a group setting, to be signed up individually. BTBL enrolls schools as a courtesy so that students don't have to carry materials to and from school each day.
  • At RFBD "students may join as individual members or become a member through their school if the school has an Annual Institutional Membership. Some students become members through their school and also maintain an individual membership."
  • With MATR you do not need to register individually.




XI. Do You Have Books on CD?

 

Braille and Talking Book Library (BTBL) Location, Hours, Contact Information, and Holidays 

 

 

Related Content
 •  Summer Reading Program
 •  MDOC Inmate Talking Book Service
 •  BTBL Online Catalog
 •  Order Books Online and Submit Book Requests (BSBP Braille & Talking Book Library)
 •  BARD Online Application and Instructions
 •  Book Services and Reader Advisors
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