“I’m out of books, what am I going to do now?” This was the short version of a call I received from a former client a couple weeks ago, when businesses and rehab agencies sent staff home to reduce public exposure to COVID-19. She’d heard a rumor that the Talking Books she looks forward to might be delayed as a result. “How do I get on BARD to download books?”
Reading, BARD, and the upcoming Vision Rehabilitation Therapist (VRT) Awareness Week, April 12-18, 2020, got me thinking about Anne Sullivan, born 154 years ago, on April 14, 1866. As one of the pioneer VRTs, what might she do if she was unable to meet with her clients face-to-face. She might remind them of their National Library Service (NLS) Talking Book players, and BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download), where books and magazines can be downloaded—if you can’t get them fast enough in the mail.
Getting Started with BARD
Your first step with BARD is to sign up with the National Library Service by calling 1-888-657-7323 or enroll on the NLS website. If reading print is difficult for you, you’ll qualify for the service, and there’s no charge. Second, register for BARD. Once registered, you’ll receive a username and password you’ll need however you decide to access BARD.
With BARD you can download any of the many books and magazines that NLS offers on digital cartridges. You don’t have to wait for them in the mail and hope they get to you before you run out! One of the simplest ways to do this is to download the BARD Mobile app if you use a smartphone or tablet. There’s an app for iOS devices (iPhone and iPad) in the App Store, Android tablets and phones from the Google Play Store, and Amazon Kindle Fire tablets. After downloading the app, you’ll be promted to put in your username and password, and you can begin looking for and downloading books and magazines—it’s that simple. If you need instructions on using the BARD Mobile app, check out the Hadley Reading instructional videos for a jumpstart on using the iOS BARD Mobile app. Fortunately, the user interface for BARD Mobile is nearly identical, no matter which smartphone or tablet you put it on.
Using a computer, you can go right to the BARD login page with your username and password to begin downloading books. An easier method is to download the BARD Express software for either Mac or Windows computers. BARD Express really makes it much easier to download books and save them to a Talking Books cartridge.
When using the BARD Mobile app on a smartphone or tablet, you use BARD Mobile to download and listen to your books. You can certainly listen to NLS books and magazines on the computer. To do that requires a DAISY book reader application. To play them on the NLS Talking Book player, you’ll need to save them to a blank NLS cartridge first, or a suitable flash drive.
Download and install on your computer a copy of BARD Express. You’ll need a blank NLS cartridge and a cable to connect it to your computer. Both cartridge and cable can be purchased by phone from Howell’s Mobility Service at (586) 558-8308, among other retailers. You may also use flash drives but check NLS guidelines first for the type of flash drive that will work best with the Talking Book player.
For more information on how to use BARD Express, check out Perkins School’s instructional article on BARD Express. Once the book or magazine is saved to the cartridge, it will play, just like any sent directly from the library.
It’s not essential to have BARD Express to download books, you can download them directly from BARD’s website. For detailed instructions check out “Downloading BARD books with Windows 7 or 10.”
More Books and Magazines
By the way, the National Library Service isn’t the only place to find books and magazines that will work with the Talking Book player. The NLS Talking Book player also plays audio files in MP3 format, which is a very standard format. You’ll find a great selection of magazines at AIRSLA or other websites. A selection of audio books can be found at Project Gutenberg, some Radio Reading Service websites, and even some local rehab agency websites, like the Iris Network‘s Maine Reader offer downloadable audio books.
If you’re not a computer user, smartphone or tablet user, be a proactive advocate! Get a blank NLS cartridge or two, and cable for yourself. Give them to a friend, call your vision rehab therapist, family member, local library, recreational therapist, or other helper and share these directions. Ask them for several books to get you started.
Here’s to you, Anne Sullivan, and all the VRTs and Rehab Teachers as we commemorate Vision Rehabilitation Therapist Awareness Week, April 12-18, 2020!