Accessible Libraries

‘You get to meet other people and hear their opinions. When you’re blind, especially when you can’t see at all, you need to keep in contact. The worst thing about being completely blind is you can’t really start a conversation very easily because you haven’t got eye contact… It’s nice to hear other people’s opinions.’
Assessing the Impact of Reading for Blind and Partially Sighted Adults, RNIB

We want to ensure that the almost two million blind and partially sighted people in the UK can visit a fully accessible library service, that has a local collection of accessible reading materials and information in physical or digital forms.

People with a visual and/or print impairment can access alternative formats for free from the following libraries in the UK (in alphabetical order):


Calibre Audio Library is a national charity providing a subscription-free service of unabridged audiobooks for adults and children who are unable to access standard print. They have over 11,000 audio books to choose from, and available titles can be searched for online.

Clearvision (

ClearVision is a postal lending library of children’s books designed to be shared by visually impaired and sighted children and adults. All their books have braille, print and pictures, and there are over 14,000 books in the collection, catering for children from birth until they’re independent readers. You can find out more via [email protected] or you can call on 020 8789 9575.

Royal National Institute of Blind People (

RNIB Library has over 60,000 items for people to borrow, including audiobooks, braille and giant print (24pt) and accessible music. It is the largest library of its kind in the UK and the full catalogue of titles can be searched online. Further information is available via the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999.

Living Paintings (

Living Paintings is a charity who design, create and publish tactile books, with audio for blind and partially sighted people, i.e. ‘Touch to See’ books. They have titles suitable for anyone from pre-school to adults, and distribute these through their FREE postal library. To register as a library member, please visit or speak to the Library team on 01635 299771. You can contact them via email [email protected].

The Six Steps Promise

All public library services should:

  • Ensure that all blind and partially sighted customers are connected to the most appropriate service for their reading needs and that they are able to make full use of an accessible public library service
  • Use Reading Sight, the free website supporting blind and partially sighted people to access reading and reading services
  • Provide local collections of accessible reading materials and information in physical or digital formats, and be able to signpost customers to a wider range of resources
  • Plan your digital and physical access strategies in consultation with blind and partially sighted people
  • Designate a champion for the reading needs of blind and partially sighted people, who has familiarised themselves with the specialist resources and services available
  • Support and promote Make a Noise in Libraries fortnight run annually by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

Share the Vision have developed a training course on the Six Steps Promise in partnership with Libraries Connected which is available to all library staff in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

‘Every six weeks they have a session led by the two librarians… They serve us tea and coffee and have a trolley with CDs and tapes on… and they read us the synopsis.’
Assessing the Impact of Reading for Blind and Partially Sighted Adults, RNIB

Getting around the library

Many blind and partially sighted shoppers have difficulty locating and navigating escalators, stairs, steps, lifts and ramps. Getting around and finding the right products can be difficult especially when books and displays are periodically rearranged.


Guiding someone with sight loss

If you see someone with a sight problem who may need help, you should introduce yourself, make sure the person knows who they are speaking to, explain who you are, and ask if assistance is needed. Let them state what kind of help they may need.


Accessible reading

If you need a document converted to an accessible format, including braille, large and giant print, audio, EasyRead, or as a hybrid disc containing a number of formats, the RNIB has a transcription service that you may use.


Customer service

You can’t judge what a person may be like, or what they may want or need, or how they conceive of their own identity, based on their appearance. Many disabilities (and other common causes of exclusion) are invisible or not immediately apparent.