Services for visually-impaired people
Hampshire libraries have a wide range of stock available for customers who have difficulty using traditional formats.
Podcast for visually impaired users
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Concessionary Membership Schemes
Anyone who has difficulty reading print is entitled to concessionary membership which offer customers special borrowing rights.
Please ask staff about registering
Libraries have always been the best source of large print books which use a bigger, clearer typeface. Some people assume they must be abridged but they’re not.
eBooks are available for loan and can be read on your computer or, using our downloading service, be transferred to a mobile device.
We have a great range of books on cassette, CD and for download. Most of them are unabridged though we also have some shorter versions as well. The titles you see on the library shelves are just a very small part of the total collection so do check the catalogue or ask library staff to do it for you.
If you are print disabled you are allowed free reservations for audio books in Hampshire’s stock.
Audio Description (AD) helps people with sight loss to watch and enjoy films. The soundtrack includes a professional narration that explains what is happening on screen when characters aren’t speaking. Hampshire Libraries have a complete set of 100+ videos of popular films with an RNIB audio description.
An increasing number of DVDs now give you the option of selecting audio description. You can see whether a DVD has audio description by checking the information on the back of the box. It will be listed as an optional audio or language track as either:
- Audio Described English
- Audio Description
- Audio Descriptive Track
- AD logo
The range of titles includes both adult and family viewing and no special equipment is needed other than an ordinary DVD player.
- DVD titles with audio description - from the RNIB.
- Consult the library catalogue or ask at your library to check whether particular titles are stocked by Hampshire Libraries.
National Talking Newspapers & Magazines Audio Download Service
Free access to audio versions of current national newspapers and magazines - available in all Hampshire libraries and Discovery Centres
- top magazines from popular to special interest
- national newspapers
- TV & radio listings and features
Here’s how it works
- bring your USB memory stick to the library
- staff will download your choice of titles onto the memory stick
- each publication is divided into two or four parts with each part about 13MB in size equivalent to a tape ‘side’
- the downloads only take a few seconds but allow up to 5 minutes for the whole procedure. If staff can’t do straight away, you can leave your USB with us and collect later.
- you take the USB stick home to listen at your leisure on any USB MP3 player such as a Sapphire Box, Boom Box, Daisy Player – and many more!
Local Talking Newspapers
There are over 500 local Talking Newspapers in the UK, providing audio recordings of local news in a variety of formats.
Standard children's picture books rebound with brailled text on clear plastic sheets so that the pictures and print are still visible.
If you enjoy talking about books with other people, why not join one of our reading groups. Several groups have been set up specifically for visually impaired people but any group you wish to join will endeavour to provide books in suitable formats.
You may be eligible to use the Bee Aware Scheme. This is a national lending service for borrowing books and newspapers in alternative formats, free of charge, through the public library.
To use the service, ask for a Declaration Form at your local library and get it signed by a health or care professional, confirming an inability to read ordinary print.
Registration for the scheme can start as soon as the form is handed back to the library.
All our libraries provide free use of computers linked to the Internet. You can surf the web, send emails or use standard office programs like word processing.
Each computer has 'Supernova' software designed to help visually impaired people. It will enlarge anything on the screen as well as read aloud in an electronic voice.
Electronic magnifier (CCTV)
Many libraries have an electronic magnifier (CCTV) which enlarges print or images onto a screen. You can alter size, contrast and, on some models, adjust the colour. It can be used for viewing anything from books, maps and photographs to handwritten letters and objects. You can also use it for writing and drawing. Anyone is welcome to use this equipment, check your local library for availability.
Winchester Discovery Centre has the latest generation CCTV device called a MyReader which photographs the page and reorganises the layout of the print on the screen to make it much easier to read continuous text
Gosport Discovery Centre has a text reader which reads aloud printed documents in an electronically-produced voice.
Podcast transcript - Library Services for VIPs in Hampshire
Are you getting the most out of Hampshire’s library service? With so many things now available for visually impaired people through your local public library, we thought it would be a good idea to run through them all briefly. You may find that you’ve been missing out on something.
Most people know that libraries have books in large print, including ones for children. But did you know that you can reserve any of them free of charge? So if the particular book you want is out on loan, or it’s not in your local branch, we’ll reserve it for you – free.
Similarly you can reserve any of our audio books – our talking books on cassette, CD, MP3 disc or Playaway – absolutely free. You won’t be charged for borrowing them either. Just let staff know that you are visually impaired when you join the library. Make sure you ask for a ‘Print Disabled Membership’ card.
So reservations are free, but how do you find out what books we’ve actually got in large print or on the various recorded formats. You can consult the catalogue in any of our libraries or ask a member of library staff to do so, and it’s also available on the Web. If you or your family have got access to the Internet at home, go to the following webpage: http://libcat.hants.gov.uk
You can also download a copy of the audio book catalogue onto your own computer if that’s more convenient. Just go to www.hants.gov.uk/audio-books.
This site also allows you to download audio books (and eBooks) in several different formats to listen to on your computer or portable listening device. You will need your Hampshire library card number in order to login to these services.
If you’ve got a computer but you haven’t got an Internet connection, we can supply you with a set of catalogues on CD which you will be able to load onto your system. Once again it’s free.
Many people seem to have the impression that the talking books you get through the library are abridged. In fact the great majority of them are full text. And anyway we’ve usually got an unabridged version of the abridged titles, so you can decide yourself which one you want. In all we’ve got well over fifteen thousand different talking books, fiction and non-fiction, so there’s plenty of choice.
If you just want to borrow DVDs, music CDs, games and audio books you can apply for Concessionary AV membership. There are two categories - under 18 years of age and over 18. This entitles you to borrow 2 items at any one time, free of charge. You wont be charged any overdues or renewal fees either. If the particular title that you want is out on loan, or not available in your local branch, you can reserve it for free. When you join make sure you ask for ‘Concessionary Audio-Visual Membership’.
Anyone who finds reading print difficult or impossible can apply for either Concessionary Audio-Visual Membership or Print Disabled Membership. Simply choose the scheme that most suits your needs. The branch staff can help you to do this. We do ask for documentary evidence of eligibility, when you apply for Concessionary Audi-Visual membership, principally the Hampshire County Council disability card. If you are aged 18 or over you will be asked for principally the Hampshire County Council disability card. Disability cards can be obtained from Adult Services. You can reach them by calling 0845 603 5630, or e-mail email@example.com. If you are under 18 it is unlikely that you will possess a disability card so you will be asked to provide a letter from your school, or failing that a doctor, indicating that you have a significant print disability.
Free films may not seem all that appealing to someone with a sight problem but we also have a collection of ‘audio described’ videos. Whatsmore, an increasing number of DVDs now give you the option of selecting audio description. If you’ve never experienced an audio described film, do try one. A discreet commentary, inserted in between the dialogue, tells you what’s happening on the screen, allowing you to follow the film’s action so that you can enjoy it along with your family and friends.
What about if you want to borrow something that’s not in the County Library stock? A Braille book for instance from the RNIB National Library Service or something from Calibre Audio Library? We can still get it for you - if you belong to something called the Bee Aware Scheme.
It’s a slightly odd name for what is a great idea. The big national voluntary organisations for blind people, like the RNIB, Calibre and National Talking Newspapers and Magazines, have all got together with the public library service to agree a system of inter-lending. Anyone registered for the Bee Aware Scheme can use their local public library to borrow items from any of the organisations taking part. We, the public library service, will get the material for you and you can also return it through us. There’s no charge for the service. The only thing you won’t be able to borrow through the Scheme at the moment is RNIB Talking Books because they require a special player.
To register for the Bee Aware Scheme, you will need to complete a form which is available at any library. Staff will be happy to help you with it. If you are not a member of the RNIB, Calibre or National Talking Newspapers, you’ll need to get the form signed by someone who can confirm that you have a sight impairment.
If you want to find out what is available for loan through the Scheme you can consult the RNIB Library Catalogue, or ask library staff to do it for you. This is a catalogue of all the resources available in Braille, moon, audio book and large print, and it also offers lots of other useful information. The web address is http://librarycatalogue.rnib.org.uk/
Although the library doesn’t have its own stock of Braille books, we can help you to get them, and for children we can obtain what’s known as ‘ClearVision’ books. These are ordinary children’s picture books interleaved with transparent pages of Braille. They’re a wonderful idea because they enable a blind parent to share a story with a sighted child, or equally they let a sighted adult share a book with a blind child. The web address for ClearVision is www.clearvisionproject.org.
Of course a very large amount of printed material never finds its way into large print or Braille, or gets recorded in audio format. However, in many of our libraries we have a device for enlarging images onto a TV screen. Some call it a ‘video magnifier’ or ‘screen enlarger’ – many just know it as a ‘CCTV’. You can use it to enlarge anything – books, letters, maps, medicine bottles, photographs, even your wedding ring. And a really good feature is that you can use it to help you write, whether it’s a tax form, a love letter or a lottery ticket. Library staff will be happy to show you how it works. It’s actually far simpler than it might look at first.
Now on to a subject which some people find exciting and others a bit scary – computers. There’s no doubt that computers have transformed the lives of many disabled people, including those with sight problems. The amount of information available on the World Wide Web is vast, and it’s growing rapidly all the time. And of course the other major attraction for many people is e-mail, which makes it so easy to keep in touch with family and friends, wherever they are in the world.
Across Hampshire we have almost six hundred computers in our libraries, all linked to the internet, all available to the public free of charge. You may have heard the term ‘The People’s Network’ and this is what it refers to – the public access computers which can now be found in every public library, not just In Hampshire, but throughout the country.
The most interesting feature of Hampshire’s computers, though, is that all of them have got a program called ‘Supernova’. This is a very high quality piece of software specially designed to make everything on the screen accessible to visually impaired people. It can work in two ways. For those who still have some useful sight, Supernova can enlarge whatever is on the screen. And as it does so, it will smooth the edges of the image so you don’t get that jagged, ‘pixellated’ effect which can make enlarged print difficult to read.
For those who have no sight, Supernova will read out any part of the screen, including menus and dialogue boxes, using an electronic voice. It can take a little getting used to, but people who use Supernova regularly often develop an astonishing ability to understand the artificial speech. In fact many of them find they can speed up the voice to the point where it sounds like gibberish to anyone else.
At the moment we’re running weekly classes at Eastleigh, New Milton, Romsey and Winchester Libraries in how to use Supernova. But we know there’s a demand for this kind of training throughout the county and we’re currently trying to organise similar sessions in other libraries, so do enquire locally if you’re interested.
Now we’d like to tell you about something for blind people which we’ve been organising in Hampshire Libraries for ten years and has proved to be a runaway success. With ‘reading groups’ becoming so popular throughout the country, we wanted to make sure that people who have to rely on alternative formats for reading, like large print, audio and Braille weren’t being excluded from this experience.
So in 1998 we set up a reading group in Winchester aimed specifically at blind and partially sighted people. The idea took off immediately and we’ve now got fourteen other similar groups in Hampshire – at Alton, Basingstoke, Hedge End, Eastleigh, Fareham, Farnborough, Gosport, Havant, Lee-on-the-Solent, Lymington, Milford-on-Sea, New Milton, Petersfield, and West End.
Before each meeting we all agree on a book to discuss, and the library service supplies everyone with a copy in the format they prefer – which most of the time is audio tape or audio CD. So everyone comes to the next meeting having recently read or heard the same book, and we share our views of it over a cup of tea or coffee. Library staff bring along any interesting reviews and background information to the book and its author, and we always finish a meeting by asking each member of the group to give it a score out of ten. The best meetings are invariably those where there’s a lot of good-natured disagreement.
These book groups are also an opportunity to share general information among members. And through annual get-togethers of all the reading groups, we are trying to build up a countywide sense of identity and community among our visually impaired readers.
Not all blind people, however, can get about easily, particularly older ones, and we’re aware that many simply can’t get to their local library. If you are in this position and you’ve got a neighbour or friend who’s willing to visit the library on your behalf, we can help you through the ‘Good Neighbour Scheme’. The advantage for you and your helper is that you won’t need to worry about library overdue charges. And you’ll also be able to enjoy all the privileges of Print Disabled Membership.
If you haven’t got a willing friend, neighbour or relative, then we may still be able to arrange for library material to be brought to your home by a member of staff or by one of our library volunteers. Check with your local library for details of the ‘Home Library Service’ which operates in your area.
So as we said at the beginning, there is a lot available for ‘VIPs’ through Hampshire public libraries, and we want as many of you to benefit from our services and resources as possible.
Incidentally, if you live within Southampton or Portsmouth, the two cities run their own library services so you’ll need to ask your local library about what’s available.
If you would like more information about anything mentioned on this recording, you can contact us
- by telephone – 0845 603 5631
- or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- or by letter – write to:
County Library Headquarters
Units 5 / 6 Moorside Place
Or just contact your local library.