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House Subcommittee Vote Could End Books for the Blind

June 7, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

House Subcommittee Vote Could End Books for the Blind

Blind Americans Urge Congress to Restore Funds

Baltimore, Maryland (June 7, 2007): On Wednesday, June 6, the House of
Representatives Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee voted to
substantially underfund the Books for the Blind program of the Library of
Congress.

Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said:
"Since 1931, Congress has consistently supported on a bipartisan basis a
national program of audio and Braille books for the blind, operated by the
Library of Congress. The blind of America are shocked and disappointed that
a House subcommittee has callously disregarded our literacy needs since
literacy leads to independence. By appropriating only $7.5 million of the
$19.1 million needed for transition from antiquated analog cassette tape
technology to digital technology, the subcommittee has effectively voted to
shut down the only public library available to blind Americans. The audio
books produced by the Library of Congress will be useless unless the digital
playback technology is provided for readers. The Talking Book program is at
a crossroads because the analog tape used for the past thirty-six years has
become obsolete and must be replaced for the program to continue.
Virtually, all government programs, except Books for the Blind, have
converted to state-of-the-art digital communication technology at a cost of
billions of dollars to the taxpayers. Leaving the Books for the Blind
program behind is unconscionable. Since it is early in the appropriations
process, however, Congress still has time to correct this grievous error.
We therefore urgently appeal to the full House Appropriations Committee, the
members of the House of Representatives, and the United States Senate to
provide the full $19.1 million requested by the National Library Service for
the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress to begin
production of digital talking books and players."

The Talking Book program serves over 750,000 blind Americans, including
blind children and an ever-increasing number of older Americans who are
losing vision. The incidence of blindness is expected to increase as the
baby boom generation reaches retirement age. Therefore, the need for this
essential program will only increase.

John G. Paré Jr.
Director of Public Relations
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
Telephone: (410) 659-9314, ext. 2371
Cell phone: (410) 913-3912
Fax: (410) 685-5653
Email: jpare@nfb.org

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