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Listen to this audio essay:




A Site Unseen

In 1899 the Philadelphia Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped was founded at 9th and Walnut Street, that helps the blind and visually impaired community. When the service was first founded its media was very limited. The library was a small division that did not provide many materials or media for the patrons use.


Currently, the library provides a large variety of options for its patrons. In this environment patrons have equal access to media that is provided for a better quality of life. Cassette tapes, Braille books, large print books, and computers help patrons learn how to read and write. In addition to providing enrichment, the library can also provide options for entertainment.


Tyrone Small, an individual who is visually impaired, uses the services at the library and loves playing the piano.


"I'm into the sports, they have a lot of books on sports on talking record, on talking tape....and I just bought a piano and you know the piano is in print and they have volunteers, and a book 296 pages and they take the book and put it on a cassette tape or CD. I don't have to wait for anyone to read this for me. I just put my CD or tape into the machine, and you know I just figure things out on my own".


The library helps people of all ages who are disabled with their individual needs. They provide mail ordered services to patrons all around the state. Fifteen hundred to sixteen hundred readers will receive books in the mail, and seven hundred people attend the physical branch of the library. This is one of the two libraries in the State of Pennsylvania that caters exclusively to the blind community.


Gino Wong is an engineer at the Philadelphia Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. His job is to make audio cassettes for the disabled provided through the library. With the assistance of volunteers, he is able to produce a large volume of audiobooks and push those out to the library's patrons. "We average something on the average of two or three minutes a page, so we can get through books fairly quickly".


The library funding is usually from the federal government, state grant, and Philadelphia donations. Unfortunately, this type of service can be threatened. If budget cuts affect the service it could affect patrons who use the service.


The library has intense hands on service. In this environment patrons learn to read and write in an alternative format. People who are disabled will be able to grow and have lifelong learning skills that a standard library could not provide. "They [the library's patrons] wouldn't be able to fully participate in the goals of lifelong learning.... And being an integral part of our community", says Keri Putnam, the administrator of Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, about how the budget cuts might affect patrons in Philadelphia.


The Free library is a resource for people who are disabled. If services are being threatened patrons would not have anywhere else to go that supports them with their individual needs. Tyrone Small worries about what might happen to the blind and visually impaired community, "We can't pick up a book up, we can't read a book, it's a lot of things we can't do on our own. We need the assistance"..... Cutting services would be heartbreaking".