The Library of Congress
National Library Service for the Blind & Physically Handicapped

U.S. Federal Government regulations governing library service to blind, physically handicapped, and reading disabled persons.

  1. The following persons are eligible for loan service:
    1. Blind persons whose visual acuity, as determined by competent authority, is 20/200 or less in the better eye with correcting lenses, or whose widest diameter of visual field subtends an angular distance no greater than 20 degrees.
    2. Other physically handicapped persons as follows:
      1. Persons whose visual disability, with correction and regardless of optical measurement, is certified by competent authority as preventing the reading of standard printed material.
      2. Persons certified by competent authority as unable to read or unable to use standard printed material as a result of physical limitations.
      3. Persons certified by competent authority as having a reading disability resulting from organic dysfunction and of sufficient severity to prevent their reading printed material normally.

  2. In cases of blindness, visual disability or physical limitations, "competent authority" is defined to include doctors of medicine; doctors of osteopathy; ophthalmologists; optometrists; registered nurses; therapists; professional staff of hospitals, institutions, and public or welfare agencies (e.g., social workers, counselors, rehabilitation teachers, and superintendents). In the absence of any of these, certification may be made by professional librarians or by any person whose competence under specific circumstances is acceptable to the Library of Congress.

  3. 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.

  4. Qualified readers must be residents of the United States, including the several states, territories, insular possessions, and the District of Columbia, or American citizens, domiciled abroad. (Note: To apply for service from the New York State Talking Book and Braille Library, readers must be residents of one of the 55 upstate counties. Residents of New York City (all boroughs) and Long Island should contact the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book LibraryExternal Link Icon. Residents of other states can check with the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically HandicappedExternal Link Icon to find the library that serves them.

  5. INSTITUTIONS (Schools, BOCES): Public and Private schools may also use this free library service. Students in schools must be certified as eligible by competent authority, as defined in this document, and must be the only recipients of this service. Call for information.
Last Updated: April 4, 2017