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Accessibility Issues at the Talking Book Library!

December 20, 2004 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker


Today Karen contacted the Talking Book Library to have her NLS services transferred or reestablished. She had tried this in the past without success: receiving paperwork which was only in print and thus lost and never completed.


For anyone who does not already know about this service, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) is a division of the Library of Congress that provides books and magazines to the blind and those with print disabilities in either Braille or audio recorded formats. A person who requires these services can safely be presumed to be unable to effectively work with printed information.


Understandably, there are processes for verifying disability and establishing NLS services. Here in Arizona, the NLS services are administered by the Arizona Braille and Talking Book Library Division. Though some paperwork must be completed, it is unjust for such an agency to fail to properly assist the blind applicant for services. In fact, it is an ethical, moral and perhaps even a legal obligation for this agency to make reasonable accomodations.


Let me start by relating the story of Karen’s call to the Arizona Braille and Talking Book Library Division early this afternoon. After explaining that she needed to either transfer or reestablish NLS services, she was told that she would need to complete some paperwork and was asked for her address to which it could be sent. Karen indicated that she was blind and would require some assistance in order to complete this paperwork. Karen was further told by the staff member answering the phone that this would require sighted assistance and that she could not help her, saying that she “had to go”… The woman further told Karen to get off her “soap box”. There are obviously a number of problems with this dialogue, the following items being only a partial list:

  • Unwillingness to provide any reasonable accomodations.
  • Poor customer service.
  • Rudeness and a perception of general disrespect for people with disabilities.
  • Lack of professionalism.


As blind people and as human beings in general, we must not accept such inappropriate conduct. We have e-mailed a letter to the management of the Arizona Braille and Talking Book Library Division insisting on proper resolution of this matter and will keep everyone posted on how this situation plays out.


We insist on the following characteristics as they relate to agencies, companies and organizations serving us specifically as people with disabilities:

  • Respect and professionalism.
  • All correspondence in an accessible, non-printed format.
  • Reasonable accomodations in all dealings, including necessary paperwork.

We will accept nothing less!


If you are an Arizona resident with a print related disability and you have experienced accessibility issues with the Arizona State Braille and Talking Book Library Division, I strongly urge you to e-mail them at btbl@lib.az.us to inform them of the issues and insist on proper resolution.


Have you experienced accessibility related problems with your state’s cooperating NLS library and what actions have worked in getting them resolved? Please post your answers so they may help all of us.

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