Books are an age-old means for many people to stay connected to the world and/or to be informed, stimulated and entertained. But many people experience physical limitations that prevent them from reading standard print.

Typical limitations obviously may include vision issues (retinal problems, macular degeneration, actual blindness), but other conditions can also affect standard reading ability. Limitations can arise from conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, stroke, brain injury, dyslexia, and learning disability. Or perhaps a disability or illness simply prevents a person from holding a book, sitting up for periods of time, or turning the pages of a book.

For many people faced with such limitations, the Colorado Talking Book Library (CTBL) can step in to help. CTBL provides free audio, Braille and large print books to people who meet criteria for eligibility. The service boasts having more than 80,000 books available in audio, large print, or Braille formats, plus a variety of magazines available in audio and Braille.

There is no cost for the service for those who qualify. Equipment and books are delivered right to your door postage-paid. CTBL books and magazines are recorded in a special format and require special playback equipment. The Library will loan you the equipment, which you may keep as long as you are actively using the recorded books and magazines. (If the equipment you are using needs service or repair, return it to the library in order to have replacement equipment sent to you free of charge.)

How to apply for Colorado Talking Book Library

CTBL is formally located in Denver but serves all eligible Coloradans. You can have an application sent to you by calling your library. Or you can download the application here: “If you need further assistance in filling out the form,” CTBL says, “call the library and a Reader Advisor can help you through the process.” The Library says you are eligible for its service if:

  • you are legally blind;
  • your vision in the better eye is 20/200 or less with corrective lenses or your widest diameter of visual field is no greater than 20 degrees;
  • you cannot see well enough or focus long enough to read standard print, though you wear glasses to correct your vision;
  • you are unable to handle print books or turn pages;
  • you are certified as having a learning disability, due to an organic dysfunction, that is severe enough to prevent you from reading in the usual manner (the disability may be permanent or temporary.)

Applications must be signed by certifying authorities. Here is what CTBL requires:

• In cases of blindness, visual disability, or physical limitation, eligibility can be certified by medical doctors, ophthalmologists, optometrists, registered nurses, therapists, and professional staff of hospitals, institutions, libraries, and public or private welfare agencies. In some cases, social workers, caseworkers, counselors, or rehabilitation teachers can certify eligibility.

• In the case of a reading/learning disability, eligibility must be certified by an MD (doctor of medicine) or DO (doctor of osteopathy.)

Return the signed application to CTBL. They will process the application, send a welcome packet, a player and a couple of books to get you started. Going forward, the CTBL patron can request materials by calling the library and speaking with a Reader Advisor. Or you can order online or via email or snail-mail. In the case of a Book Club request, for which there may be high demand, CTBL says “Every effort will be made to ensure prompt arrival of books requested by the patron.”

What Colorado patrons of CTBL can get access to

“We have books for all tastes and interest levels,” CTBL says. The Library provides multiple services to help patrons choose their books. These include sending patrons the Talking Book Topics or Braille Book Review magazines, providing a CTBL newsletter with book lists, having reader advisors available, and an automatic selection process that is done based on a list of preferences patrons submit. In the latest survey the Library conducted, close to 3 out of 4 respondents (74%) said they use at least one of these CTBL services to help them learn about what to read next. If you prefer to act on your own in what you select, see the CTBL website at to view the wide range of materials and topical subject areas you can choose from.

CTBL also cooperates with other libraries around the country in an exchange program of locally produced materials. If a book needed by a patron is available from another library, CTBL will request it according to the other library’s ILL (Interlibrary Loans) guidelines. Many of these materials are shared on BARD (see below) and will be available without request.

If it should happen that you are not happy with the materials you receive, you can call the library and talk with a Reader Advisor to make changes. Patrons can continue receiving library service if they relocate by

notifying CTBL as soon as possible of the address change.

Downloadable Books (BARD)

More than 100,000 audio books and thousands of Braille books in the CTBL’s collection are available for on-demand download 24/7, which is also FREE. You can download the books to a cartridge or flash drive for use with the player provided, or use the BARD Mobile app on your iOS mobile device (iPad, iPhone) or your android device. More details on BARD are available at

What Colorado Talking Book Library Patrons Do and Say

At the time of its 2020 survey of patrons, CTBL had approximately 6,200 active individual patrons. While CTBL serves all age groups, the largest age group of patrons are those 76 and older, comprising about half of all CTBL patrons. The reported oldest patron is 104.

The survey findings included the following:

While patrons are able to communicate with CTBL through texting, email, phone, mail, and walk-in service, about 75% in the survey said they used phone.

Roughly 75% of respondents used the available CTBL audio players, while 62% used a smartphone and 49% used a PC or laptop.

When asked what they valued most about what CTBL provides, the top five elements that respondents listed showed some variance between age groups. All age groups listed “Reading fiction for enjoyment” as a high value. There was more variance with “Reading nonfiction for enjoyment,” where the older age groups outpaced younger in seeing this as a high value.

At least half of every age group reported “Keeps my mind active” as a high value, but noticeably larger percentages — more than 80% — of patrons age 60 and older listed this as a value. As far as being able to continue a “Hobby of reading,” this was also seen as a value more by older rather than younger patrons.

Finally, regarding “Keeps me company” as a value, this was cited by a particularly high percentage of respondents age 76 and older; more than 7 out of 10 respondents in that age group valued CTBL services for this reason.

For further information

Visit Colorado Talking Book Library – AgeWise Colorado