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Alternative Format Material


BrailleWhat is alternative format material?

Usually a book or print item which has been produced in a different format.
This includes: Braille, Moon, Large Print, Giant Print, DAISY(compressed digital audio on CDs) or Tactile Diagrams, Audio cassettes, CDs, MP3 disks and other electronic devices.

What is a VIP?

A visually-impaired or 'print disabled' person.

What is the Bee Aware scheme?

Bee Aware is a national initiative to promote the inter-library loan of alternative format materials on behalf of visually impaired and print disabled people.

Further information is available on the North West Libraries Interlending Partnership (NWLIP) web-site:

An information pack about the Bee Aware scheme is available free of charge via e-mail from NWLIP


Using an audio bookRNIB National Library Service 

Europeís largest collection of Braille books (over 30,000 titles) including the UKís largest collection of unabridged audio fiction and popular non fiction titles; practise materials for adult Braille learners; 14,000 Braille music scores; over 2,000 titles in Moon; learning and skills library of audio reference and study material.

It is possible to search the RNIB Library catalogue to borrow braille, audio, maps, music, large or giant print and Moon from the RNIB Library, Calibre Audio Library, National Blind Children's Society and Torch Trust.

The Bee Aware scheme allows loans for non-members.    

See: RNIB Library catalogue                                                                                                (Photo courtesy of RNIB)

All records have been transferred to Unity UK where subscribers can include Revealweb in their search profile.


Searching through WorldCat includes the option of alternative format materials.

Loans through the Bee Aware scheme:

Calibre Audio Library
This is a free postal service. Books are mainly available on cassette but have introduced MP3 format recently. The catalogue is available to search online and includes material for adults and children. It is a leisure reading library so doesnít have any text books.  It is possible to use the Bee Aware scheme to obtain books for library users.

For more information visit

Custom Eyes Books
A collection of Giant print books produced by National Blind Childrenís Society. At the moment there are about 8,000 titles available. Books can be tailor made in the font size and colour of paper to suit individual children.Original covers are used wherever possible. Some titles are available on loan from the RNIB using the Bee Aware scheme. For more information:

TNAUK (National Talking Newspapers and Magazines)
A wide range of national newspapers and magazines available in various audio formats. Individuals can take out a subscription to individual titles. Subscribers qualify for the Bee Aware scheme For more information visit

Other resources:

Bag Books
Bag Books is a national charity, working to enrich the lives and support the learning of children, young people and adults with severe to profound intellectual impairments.  For more information visit

Clear Vision Books
All books have Braille print and pictures making them suitable for Visually Impaired and sighted children and adults to share. There are over 12,000? books in the collection including tactile board books, simple stories for young children and stimulating books for newly fluent readers. Families can take out individual subscriptions to a postal service. For more information:

Cue and Review
A Scottish based charity working across the whole UK that produces audio transcriptions of newspapers and magazines. Titles include Four Four Two, Empire and Inside Soap. Postal service available via individual subscription. For more information:

Keep reading with eBooks

RNIB is running a pilot project on raising awareness of eBooks as a reading solution for people with sight loss.Go to:  for information on reading solutions promoted by the RNIB and for a free information pack about the benefits of ebooks. The pack explains what eBooks are, how they can help a reader to keep reading even with sight loss and what should be considered before starting.

National organisations of relevance:

Share the Vision
Share the Vision is a partnership of UK libraries and library organisations that work together to improve the
accessibility of library services for print disabled people. Membership includes voluntary sector and public-funded organisations: British Library, Calibre Audio Library, CILIP, Dyslexia Action, Clearvision, Library and Information Services Council: Northern Ireland, RNIB, School Libraries Group (CILIP), Scottish Library and Information Council, Society of Chief Librarians, Society of College, National and University Libraries.

Reading Sight
Reading Sight has been created to support librarians, teachers, voluntary workers and anyone interested in helping people with sight loss get access to reading and reading services.



'Six Steps to library services for blind and partially sighted people'  

A joint initiative by the Society of Chief Librarians, Scottish Library & Information Council and Share the Vision.

In a UK-wide effort to improve access for blind and partially sighted people, public libraries are adopting six important simple steps tht will ensure that everyone can use their library.

Included in the six steps initiative are collections of large print and audio books, having a library champion for the
reading needs of blind and partially sighted people, and making sure that technology in libraries is accessible to all.

Six steps to library services for blind and partially sighted people Word document  173Kb

Assessing the impact of reading for blind and partially sighted adults

This reveals that reading plays a vital role in the lives of blind and partially sighted people, helping them to overcome daily challenges, boosting mental well-being, enabling them to develop learning and skills and providing opportunities for social contact through reading groups.

The research was commissioned by the Royal National Institute of Blind People and conducted by The Reading Agency and LISU research and information centre at Loughborough University.

Assessing the Impact of Reading for Blind and Partially Sighted AdultsAcrobat document  October 2012