Digital Books and Media: Access for Visually Impaired

Shelf loaded with books
Shelf loaded with books

Thanks to organizations like Bookshare and Project Gutenberg, people who have trouble reading standard print now have numerous options for accessing their literature.  Digital books and accessible media provide spoken-word recordings, translated books for several languages, e-descriptions, and more.  Explore the resources below and learn about each projects’ accessibility.


One of the largest virtual libraries online, Bookshare is more than just a place to access books.  Its members can actually share books they have scanned with other members.  Thanks to an exemption in the U.S. copyright law, people with disabilities related to reading can download and share books online legally.  Bookshare currently contains over 46,000 books available to download.  This non-profit organization also features a text to speech software available for libraries to install on their computers for those who may not have access to the internet.

Bookshare’s Twitter page

Bookshare’s Facebook page

Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic

Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D) has a large collection of approximately 6,000 education titles that have been digitally recorded on CD.  The audio textbooks include features that allow students to quickly navigate and bookmark pages and chapters.  This organization was founded by Anne T. Macdonald who coined the motto “Education is a right, not a privilege.”

RFB&D’s Twitter page

RFB&D’s Facebook page

Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg has an eText Library with books available both online and offline.  It offers over 30,000 free e-books accessible to computers or mobile devices such as a Kindle or iPhone.  Both human-read and computer-read audio books are offered, as well as digitized music.  An average of 400 e-books are added each month for free download.

Project Gutenberg’s Facebook page

More digital media sites:

Canadian National Institute for the Blind – Though it’s based in Canada, 2 million resources like music in braille and descriptive videos are available online

International Children’s Digital Library – Children’s books available in many different languages

National Center for Accessible Media – Captioning and audio description tools

Center for Applied Special Technology – Universal design for learning

Pink Monkey – Online student resource with over 460 free study guides and online textbooks for 15 subjects


  1. Great list of resources! I would like to add a new accessible editions publisher to it: ReadHowYouWant partners with over 70 publishers to convert 100 books a month into accessible formats including large print in 16 to 24pt, braille, and DAISY. New publishing partners are being formed each month, making bestselling and contemporary titles available to everyone, no matter what your reading needs or preferences. Visit for large print, and for braille and DAISY.

  2. Hello… I wanted to alert your readers that Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic’s library stands today at close to 58,000 educational textbooks and other titles — human and synthetic speech, offered through downloads, CDs, and assistive devices. We’re serving thousands of school systems and institutions across the country, over 270,000 K- grad school students as well as veterans. Thanks for including RFB&D in your list of resources. We just wanted to let you know that the 6,000-title figure cited above is a bit out of date. 😉

    Feel free to get in touch with me any time you want to update your info or talk to any of our experts.

    Doug Sprei
    Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic
    Washington, DC

  3. Thanks for the list, although it looks like you missed one of the biggest resources of all: National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped from the Library of Congress. Roughly 16,000 digital audio books are available for download from its website, along with recent and back issues of 45 popular magazines. All feature human narrators. Meanwhile, Braille readers can download .brf files for more than 10,000 Braille books and magazines.

    Individuals with visual, physical, or even some reading disabilities that prevent the use of standard print are generally eligible for this *free* service. And hey, they’ll even loan you a digital book player for free, too.

    And perhaps best of all, the service is coordinated through a network of libraries throughout the country, so a real-live librarian is only a phone call away if you need help.

  4. Thanks for your input, Doug and Tracey. We appreciate all the information we can get on accessibility for people with disabilities.

  5. Hi, Thanks for sharing such a wonderful information. I must say that while reading your post I found my thoughts in agreement with the topic that you have discussed, which happens very rare.

    Thanks to organizations like Bookshare and Project Gutenberg, people who have trouble reading standard print now have numerous options for accessing their literature.

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