Expanding the world of books for visually impaired in Indiana

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Books are a way for many to escape, to be entertained and to learn, but for hundreds of Hoosiers, many titles aren’t available to them.

However, there is a program at the Indiana State Library that’s connecting legally blind Hoosiers to books that they otherwise would never get to enjoy.

Jean Palmer Heck is a volunteer who goes to the library to lend her voice to a great project.

“I’m recording here for about an hour,” Heck explained.

The former news reporter narrates books as Linden Coffman records and monitors for mistakes.  Her voice goes on audio cartridges for the library’s Indiana Voices program in which Coffman is the director for.

“We take print books, record them and make them into audio books cartridges which are then made available to blind, visually impaired and physically impaired people across the state of Indiana,” said Coffman.

Heck got involved because while she’s not visually impaired, she once had a struggle with literacy, years ago while living in Japan with her husband.

“I could understand the spoken language but couldn’t read or write,” said Heck.

The booth and his position are funded by the Lilly Foundation.  The program that mails the cartridges and provides the digital player to Hoosiers is federally funded.

“Free of charge, no postage one way or the other,” said Coffman.

While best-selling titles are typically made into audio books, many are not.  That’s what makes this program special.

“We record books with a kind of Indiana signature, Indiana flavor books that are written by Indiana authors or books that are about Indiana,” said Coffman.

Nearly 7,000 Hoosiers get the cartridges, but Coffman says they could reach even more.  What he needs are volunteers to monitor and review for errors.

“For many people this is their one avenue into a larger world,” said Coffman.

“When you think about the people who you’re helping it’s marvelous,” added Heck.

Volunteers can review the audio books from home.  Just click on the link to learn more.

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