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BARD Mobile, 9/24/13

BARD Mobile Arrives At Long Last

Contributed by Joel Zimba, Special Projects Coordinator, MDTAP

Last week, BARD Mobile, an iOS app which reads both Braille and audio books from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), appeared in the App Store. Exhaustive reviews of BARD Mobile’s features and step-by-step guides for it’s use are already appearing in all of the usual places. Blindbargains.com has an excellent article, and there is ample discussion on applevis.com. As such, an in-depth review of the app itself will not be included here.

The workings of the app itself is one thing, but what BARD Mobile means for NLS and for the assistive technology community at large is another. Until now, specialized equipment was required in order to listen to audio books from NLS.  In the analog days, these were cassette players and record players, which played NLS materials produced in a specialized format.

Around 2005, NLS moved into the digital age.  Digital book players were produced specifically for the playback of NLS materials.  At the same time, third party digital players, like those from Humanware, began to proliferate.  Rather than sending all materials through the U.S. mail, downloading talking books became an option.

With the introduction of BARD Mobile, the barrier of specialized hardware has been removed.  Library patrons can now listen to audio books on commercially available iOS devices.  BARD Mobile may well decimate the market for third party NLS book players.  These devices typically cost hundreds of dollars, and the benefits of buying one rather than an iPhone or iPad may only continue for niche markets within an already small consumer group.

This is part of a larger trend in the assistive technology world.  As reflected in this blog, common off-the-shelf (COTS) computing devices are increasingly taking the place of more expensive specialized assistive technology.  While this solution may not work for all users, the cost and convenience are highly appealing.  Braille Notetakers and augmentative communication devices now have even more company in an increasingly perilous marketplace.


The BARD Mobile application for iOS devices, version 1.0, is now available at Apple’s online app store: itunes.apple.com/us/app/bard-mobile/id705229586.

A video introduction to the BARD Mobile application is available at www.loc.gov/today/cyberlc/feature_wdesc.php?rec=5955


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