Can The U.S. Do More To Bring Blind And Deaf Americans Online?
This June, the U.S. Library of Congress rolled out a free mobile app that will give more Americans with physical disabilities access to almost 65,000 books, magazines, and music albums in both audio and braille formats. The BARD app was previously only available for Apple products, but now Android smartphone and tablet users will have access to the Library of Congress as well.
“The BARD Mobile app allows searching, downloading, and reading books and magazines on one fully accessible, mainstream device,” said Karen Keninger, president of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS). “It’s a library in your pocket.”
The NLS is a department of the Library of Congress that provides free braille and audio-books to Americans who are blind, deaf, or otherwise physically disabled. Internet and mobile access are generally lower among disabled demographics, and the NLS hopes the expansion of the BARD mobile app will help bring more Americans online.
Across all demographics, 63% of cell phone users go online using smartphones, as of 2013. For comparison, a recent U.K. study surveyed internet use among more than 4,000 disabled and 17,000 non-disabled people.
The report found that among younger disabled people, internet access was similar to those without disabilities, at 90% and 93% respectively. But across all age groups in the U.K., internet access among disabled consumers was just 55%, compared with 83% overall. Plus, those access numbers dropped sharply among low-income disabled populations.
Keninger hopes the BARD app will help bring Web services to more disabled American citizens, while allowing existing Web users to download Library of Congress material even faster.
“BARD Mobile for Android continues our efforts to enhance the delivery and reading experience of NLS patrons,” Keninger said in a June 18 press release.
Disabled Americans looking for more information about the NLS or BARD app can visit the organization’s website or call 1-888-NLS-READ.