Release Date: 
Thursday, June 7, 2007
John G. Paré Jr.
Director of Public Relations
National Federation of the Blind
(410) 659-9314, extension 2371
(410) 913-3912 (Cell)

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.