Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic

Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic

Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic (RFB&D) is a non-profit volunteer organization operating nationwide in the United States. It produces and maintains a library of educational accessible audiobooks to people who cannot effectively read standard print because of visual impairment, dyslexia, or other disability.


RFB&D was founded in 1948 by Anne T. Macdonald, a member of the New York Public Library's Women's Auxiliary, in response to an influx of inquiries from soldiers who had lost their sight in combat during World War II. The newly-passed GI Bill of Rights guaranteed a college education to all veterans, but texts were mostly inaccessible to the recently-blinded veterans, who did not read Braille and had little access to live readers. Macdonald mobilized the women of the Auxiliary under the motto "Education is a right, not a privilege."

Members of the Auxiliary formed Recording for the Blind and transformed the attic of the New York Public Library into a studio, recording textbooks using then state-of-the-art six-inch vinyl SoundScriber phonograph discs that played approximately 12 minutes of material per side. In 1952, Macdonald established recording studios in seven additional cities across the United States; as of 2008 there were 30 studios in addition to the National Headquarters in Princeton, New Jersey.

By 1970, the organization found itself serving an increasing number of people who had learning disabilities, including dyslexia. To acknowledge this growing member population, the organization’s name was changed in 1995 to Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic. More than 70 percent of RFB&D’s membership, including children and adults, are certified as having learning disabilities.

The SoundScriber discs were eventually replaced by four-track cassettes; since 2007, all titles have been distributed on CD in a specialized format which facilitates accessing the audio recording by chapter or by a given page number from the printed material. As of August 2008, titles have been converted into downloadable audio files.


A volunteer force of approximately 7,000 people records over 6,000 titles annually into RFB&D's library, which in 2007 contained over 37,000 titles in a broad variety of specialty and academic subjects, from kindergarten through post-graduate and professional. In addition to general interest titles, RFB&D records specific titles requested by member borrowers, provided that the title is educational in nature and supports a formal academic curriculum, and that the member can provide two copies of the book to RFB&D, which are necessary for the recording and editing process.

Borrowers must provide a certification of their disability, and may borrow titles through an individual membership, through their association with a member institution such as a school, or both.

Titles are digitally recorded onto CD or downloadable audio file in a specialized format which allows RFB&D to respect copyright and allows borrowers to access the audio recordings by chapter or page number. Titles must be played back by a specially adapted CD player, available from RFB&D. Downloadable audio textbooks can be played back using portable media players or Microsoft Windows-compatible computers.

External links

*Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic’s accessible website []
*Learning Through Listening, RFB&D's Teacher Support website []
*RFB&D Introduces New AudioAccess(SM) Downloadable Audio Textbooks []

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