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Reading to blind people

Updated February 21, 2017

Although there are a variety of services and mediums available to the blind so they can access print media, not all items in print are readily accessible for the blind. When a blind individual needs information from such materials, or simply has the desire to enjoy a good book that has not been recorded, it is a wonderful resource to have a volunteer who will read those materials to him or her.

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Before Reading

Before the reader begins reading to a blind individual, it is ideal to visit for a few minutes to get to know each other briefly and for the reader to get to know the needs and desires of the person he is reading for. The needs and desires may change from reading to reading. For example, one day the blind person may wish the newspaper to be read so she can glean specific information, while later she may wish a novel to be read for her enjoyment. Maybe she needs a bill read to her so she can make a correct payment. It is also important to determine if the blind person desires something specific to be read. Is she learning a skill? Does she need specific information, and only that information, from a book? Perhaps she is looking for a particular article in a magazine? Or, again, perhaps she is looking to be entertained. Does she want to listen to the whole newspaper, book or magazine? Does she want you to read the table of contents so she can choose what you read to her? Don't begin reading until it is specifically known what the blind individual needs and desires from the reading. Don't be afraid to ask questions until those desires are understood. If the blind person needs personal information read to her, be sensitive to the situation. Be polite and do not make inappropriate comments about what is read. Keep the information confidential. Finally, reading aloud is a skill. Some people have a natural talent for it, but as with all skills, it needs to be practised. Practice reading to yourself or to others. Children particularly love to be read to.

How to Read Aloud to the Blind

When reading aloud, it is essential to read clearly. It is OK to take the time to enunciate clearly and to allow for natural expression and, if appropriate, dramatic interpretation to come through. It is not necessary to rush through the material to get done as fast as possible. Be open to following the guidance of the person being read to. Perhaps after a paragraph is read she will want it read again. Perhaps she will need to think about it for a few minutes before moving on to the next paragraph. Maybe she wants you to tone down the dramatic interpretation you add. Together, the individual reading and the individual being read to can work out a system that works for them. It is important to only read, but read thoroughly, what the blind individual has asked be read before the reading has begun. Take notes if necessary to refer to during the reading. It is essential to explain everything within the context of the material being read that is not text. Be prepared to describe charts, graphs, pictures, tables, or to accentuate any highlighted text.

Volunteer Opportunities

If you have a desire to read for the blind, there are a variety of opportunities for volunteers, either to read in person or to record materials for the blind to listen to at their leisure. To find such opportunities, visit a local library, university, school, support centre or local organisation that serves the blind population. It's as easy as asking for someone who serves the facility in an official capacity and voicing interest in volunteering to read for the blind. There are several organisations online that offer the opportunity for volunteer readers, as well. Read This to Me at http://www.readthistome.org/volunteer.php and RFB&D http://www.rfbd.org/nationalunits.htm are two such options. Most areas have opportunities for local service. A Google search may result in some choices. Asking local churches and service centres may also give some leads in local possibilities. Some cities have radio stations that allow volunteers to come and record daily newspapers for the blind to listen to.

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About the Author

Marguerite Lance has been a professional writer for seven years and has written for museums, hospitals, non-profit agencies, governmental agencies and telecommunication companies. Her specialties include nutrition, dietetics and women's and children's health issues. Lance received a Bachelor of Arts in biological anthropology from Idaho State University.

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