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Library of Congress Service Launches App to Bring Materials to Blind Readers

Courtesy Shealah Craighead

Keninger says changes in technology have made a wealth of new reading options available to visually impaired people over the years. She benefits from many on a daily basis, using her digital talking machine and her iPhone to download NLS content, and reading braille books and magazines she receives in the mail. One of her most recent downloads was a work of teen fiction.

“My grandson was here for the [National] Book Festival,” Keninger said. “He was able to meet his favorite author, and I thought I should download one of his books and read that.”

Her work computer is equipped with a screen reader to interpret what appears on the monitor, as well as a braille display. Additionally, she keeps an old-fashioned braille writer on her desk and an electronic refreshable braille display. She would love to be able to give NLS patrons more access to braille literacy tools, but the displays are too expensive for the budget.

“There are so many opportunities right now with the changes in technology,” Keninger said of her 18 months directing the NLS. “There are so many things that I want to do, and the biggest challenge is choosing the ones that we can afford to do and getting the most for the money.”

Keninger, who learned to read at the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School, a specialized K-12 school for legally blind students, wants to expand braille literacy. Adding refreshable, digital braille readers to the NLS offering has become one of her next goals.

“I am hopeful that in time, NLS will be able to provide those because braille is the literacy medium for people who are blind or visually impaired,” she said. “Audio is great, but its not a substitute for reading.”

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