As a result of advocacy efforts over the years, as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act, the federal government and many states offer assistance and exemptions for people who are blind or visually impaired. These cut across many areas of life, and we cover a few examples below. You may also want to read our post Everyday Implications of the ADA for People with Vision Loss, which highlights some of the ways the ADA has been useful in the lives of people with low or no vision.
Free Matter for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
By Sandra Burgess, MSW
Under the law, passed in 1899, in the U.S. and its territories, specialized reading materials or equipment may be sent free of charge to people who are legally blind, those whose visual impairment prohibits them from reading comfortably, or those who have a physical or perceptual condition which prevents them from accessing printed material in a conventional way. Examples of mail that qualifies as Free Matter include large-type (14-point type) documents, braille, audio recordings, and talking-book players. Mail must contain the wording “Free Matter for the Blind and Physically Handicapped” where postal stamps are normally placed. Items must be unsealed to allow for inspection by postal authorities.
I have been receiving and sending items via Free Matter for the Blind and Physically Handicapped since childhood. My friends and I reused two large brown envelopes with clasps that allowed postal inspection. We would braille the recipient’s name on one envelope to send a letter along with a “return envelope” that had the sender’s address, with “Free Matter for the Blind and Physically Handicapped printed on the outside of the return envelope. It was easy to fold the return envelope and insert it into the sender’s envelope along with the letter. When a friend matched me with PenPal, a blind man in a nearby state, he was excited that he was able to send the letter to me back to himself!
How to Apply to Use Free Matter
Certified participants in the Library of Congress National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped are eligible to use this service. According to USPS, a “competent authority” such as a social worker, registered nurse, ophthalmologist, doctor, or librarian can certify your eligibility as a person who meets the criteria of legal blindness or other stipulations laid out in the USPS guidelines…..
Read more: https://visionaware.org/blog/visionaware-blog/exemptions-and-special-assistance-for-people-who-are-blind-or-visually-impaired/?fbclid=IwAR0RuE32Wm4kAAN2lx3ONZb8B7W0CbU5H_8fVpiZJrVhuMnua6M1-gBXnUM