The New York Institute For Special Education

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· Serving Students with Special Needs since 1831 ·

#ThrowBackThursday: The Talking Book


Today a broad variety of technologies make audio books available to persons with blindness and low vision. Our students use digital audio players to listen to popular fiction and non-fiction books. Students usually have the option of getting their textbooks in Braille and digital audio.

The availability of special record players became known as “talking books” to the blind community started in 1931 with the passing of the Pratt-Smoot Act. This law mandated that literature in braille be provided to adults who are blind through designated libraries nationwide.

In 1932, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) began work on sound recordings and developed some of the first test recording that included the book Midstream by Helen Keller and the poem The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe.

The Library of Congress received its first shipment of Talking Books in 1934 from AFB with titles that include the Book of Psalms and the Declaration of Independence. The American Printing House for the Blind recorded its first audio book, Gulliver’s Travels, in 1936.

Today, books are read in Braille or using digital book readers from downloaded files. Websites like and provide over a half million popular books and text books to students and adults.