by Deborah Hakes
Derrean Tucker, 22, is studying social science and psychology at West Georgia Technical College. He wants to be a guidance counselor for the blind, in order to help people meet their life’s goals despite barriers they may face – just as individuals did for him when he lost his vision four years ago due to a detached retina from head trauma.
“I had to learn a new way to go about my day-to-day activities,” he said. Besides attending college full time, he also is running for the secretary position for the Georgia affiliate of the National Federation for the Blind.
Derrean uses a talking book machine from Georgia Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (GLS) to read audio books of his school materials as well as suspense and detective novels.
“GLS allows those with disabilities to keep doing things they did before they lost their vision,” said Derrean. “I can access literature and pursue my degree.”
Through Georgia Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled, Georgia Public Library Service provides library services for individuals who are blind or whose physical abilities require the use of books and magazines in audio format or in braille. GLS lends talking books and the easy-to-use talking book players needed to use them free of charge. GLS also offers talking books and magazines online and through the Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) Mobile app. Reader advisors are available to help patrons with any questions or to select books via phone. GLS was formerly known as GLASS; the name was changed this summer to better reflect the program’s services.
GLS isn’t just for those who are blind. Individuals also are eligible if they are low vision, physically unable to hold a book and turn the page, or have reading disabilities such as dyslexia.
“I used to go to the library a lot and get books with regular print,” said Elizabeth Bennett, 100. “Then I went to large print, and then it got to the point where I couldn’t see the books well on the shelves.”
Her librarian recommended GLS, and now she is able to independently select books from her home over the phone, which are mailed to her free of charge and she returns via a self-addressed package.
“I order six or seven at a time and as I read one, I put it back in the mail,” she said. “My favorite thing to do is read, which is a good thing, because at 100, there isn’t much else I can do!”
She also participates in a monthly book club with other GLS patrons via phone. The club offers a chance for socialization, as the seven members get to know each other and talk about good books. Her favorite book so far is “Where the Crawdads Sing.”
GLS services allow people to keep reading on their own. It provides a sense of community, independence, and entertainment for those who utilize it. GLS also provides a sense of comfort for caregivers, such as Andi Counts.
“My mom developed severe macular degeneration during the last decade of her life and used the GLS BARD system to listen to audio books from 2013 until her death in January 2021,” said Andi Counts.
“Books became her only entertainment lifeline during the COVID-19 isolation of long-term care residents. During our frequent calls, she would tell me what she was reading and whether it was a ‘goodie’ or not so great. She would sometimes get what she called a ‘doozie,’ and we would joke about her librarian’s (that was me) poor selections. It not only gave her something to do to relieve the monotony, but gave us something to talk and laugh about. Being able to read through GLS lifted her spirits, and this was so comforting to me,” she said.
SIGN UP FOR GLS
The GLS application can be filled out by hand or computer and has basic questions such as name, address, qualifying condition, and the types of reading materials that interest the patron. The application includes a place for the certifying authority to sign. After GLS receives the application via postal service or email, they will be in touch to provide the service delivery in the way that the patron prefers.
Contact Georgia Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled: 800-248-6701, email@example.com, or gls.georgialibraries.org.