How Digital Content Empowers Braille Literacy

Braille is an essential tool that promotes literacy for individuals who are blind. It provides a means of reading and writing at home, in school, and in the workplace that can’t be substituted by any other means of accessibility.

Braille is widely produced on paper and made available via technology such as refreshable braille displays, computers, and standalone refreshable braille devices. This technology provides braille access to a wealth of digital content, including:

  • Documents
  • E-mails
  • Web pages
  • Books

Now that Braille Literacy Month is coming to a close, we want to recognize several organizations who continue to provide braille content that empowers braille literacy for individuals who are blind.

National Library Services for the Blind and Print Disabled

The National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS) is located at the United States Library of Congress, and provides braille and recorded materials to individuals who are unable to read regular printed materials. This program is free to qualifying U.S. citizens, and offers services to both children and adults.

NLS mails physical books, periodicals, and other materials to qualifying patrons, plus offers digital content through their Braille and Audio Reading Download Service (BARD). Patrons can log onto the BARD website and download audio and braille materials, then access them on devices such as digital book players and smart phones.

Braille Ready Format (BRF) files can be read on devices that support the format using refreshable braille. This gives patrons access to a wide range of materials while encouraging braille literacy.

Canadian National Institute for the Blind

The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) delivers programs and services to Canadian citizens who are blind so they may enjoy independence and success. CNIB began by promoting employment through workshops and manufacturing facilities.

The CNIB offers individuals who are blind three options for accessing library services. Books, magazines, and newspapers are available in a wide range of formats, including:

  • Audio
  • Braille
  • Accessible electronic books

The Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA) works with Canadian public libraries to provide qualifying Canadian citizens with free access to materials in the formats listed above. Patrons who are unable to read regular printed materials can access books and other materials in English and French in either physical form or digital form. They also offer a free subscription to the U.S. service called BookShare, which has an additional 500,000 digital books.

The National Network for Equitable Library Service (NNELS) offers more than 35,000 books in English and French, and is owned and maintained by Canadian public libraries. This national service provides these titles in digital formats so they are accessible to all patrons. Patrons who read braille can either access it as hard copy or in an electronic format using a refreshable braille display.


Bookshare is a U.S.-based service that provides books in a wide range of formats to individuals who are unable to read regular printed materials. Schools can use this service to help students overcome reading barriers, and students can access the service for free. Adults can purchase an annual subscription to access Bookshare books.

Available formats include:

  • Audio
  • PDF
  • Braille

Individuals can read books on a computer, smart phone, or other mobile device using a refreshable braille display. Notes and bookmarks can be added to customize the reading experience.

Bookshare memberships are for U.S. citizens and citizens in other countries who qualify for the service.

Royal National Institute of Blind People

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) provides services to individuals who are blind or visually impaired They focus on enabling independence by providing accessible information. Books are offered in these formats:

  • Audio
  • Braille
  • Digital downloads

The RNIB makes Braille books available in hard copy, or patrons can download books to a computer, smart phone, or other mobile device then read them using a refreshable braille display.

National Braille Press

The National Braille Press (NBP) provides individuals who are blind and visually impaired with programs, technology, and materials that support braille literacy. Resources they produce include:

  • Books
  • Textbooks
  • Tests
  • Children’s books
  • Technology books
  • Airline safety guides

NBP distributes materials for purchase both nationally and across the globe. Materials are available in both hard copy and electronic formats so they can be read using a refreshable braille display. They also provide braille transcription services to support accessibility and braille literacy.

Visit the Freedom Scientific Braille Training page to learn more about our braille products. Listen to the latest episode of our Freedom Scientific training podcast for more information about the importance of braille literacy. Visit our Training Podcast page to learn how to access the podcast.

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