Free Matter for the Blind

Mailing Free Matter for the Blind

This information has been produced by the Consumer Advocate, U. S. Postal Service. It is designed to answer the most often asked questions about free matter for the blind and other visually handicapped persons. The information contained in this publication is based on E040 of the Domestic Mail Manual and United States Code, title 39, sections 3403-3405.
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Who may qualify to mail items free of postage?

Persons who are blind or who cannot use or read conventionally printed material due to a physical handicap. Other handicaps that can prevent normal reading include disabling paralysis, muscle or nerve deterioration affecting coordination and control, and confinement in iron lungs or other mechanical devices. Among the causes of such conditions are cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, arthritis, infantile paralysis, myasthenia gravis, and diplegia.
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What must a person do to be eligible to mail items free of postage?

The person must have a competent authority certify in writing that he or she is unable to read conventional reading material. A competent authority includes a licensed medical doctor, ophthalmologist, optometrist, registered nurse, or professional staff member of a hospital or other institution or agency. The statement is to be submitted to the post office where postage-free mailings will be made or received by the blind or visually handicapped person. The person is then considered eligible to use the free mailing privilege.
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Which material may be mailed free of postage?

Under the conditions specified below, the following material is eligible:

  1. Books, magazines, musical scores, and other reading matter, or pages or parts thereof, in raised characters (Braille), large print, or recorded form.
  2. Paper, records, tapes, and other matter for the production of reading matter, musical scores, or sound reproductions for eligible persons.
  3. Equipment and parts for equipment used for writing by eligible persons or for educational purposes.
  4. Sound playback equipment specially designed or adapted for the use of visually handicapped persons.
  5. Equipment or parts for equipment specifically designed or adapted for use by visually handicapped persons, such as Braille watches, white canes, and similar equipment.
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Are there restrictions on this material?

The material may not contain any advertising. Musical or other sound recordings not specifically designed for use by visually handicapped persons are not eligible for free mailing. The mail is subject to inspection by the Postal Service.
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Who can mail eligible material postage- free and to whom can it be mailed?

Individuals, libraries, and other noncommercial organizations serving eligible persons may mail the above material free of postage to eligible persons and to organizations serving eligible persons. Eligible persons may return materials to the lenders free of postage. Eligible persons may exchange the above material among themselves free of postage. Libraries and other noncommercial organizations may exchange such material among themselves free of postage. Commercial producers of the above material may mail such material free of postage to an eligible person on the additional condition that whatever charge, fee, or rental required does not exceed the cost of the material.
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Can letters be mailed free of postage?

Letters in raised characters (Braille), in 14+ point or larger sight-saving type, or in the form of sound recordings may be mailed free of postage from an eligible person.

Handwritten or typewritten letters, however, are subject to the applicable rate of postage when mailed to or from an eligible person. Also subject to applicable postage are bills paid by mail by eligible persons and letters in any form when mailed to eligible persons from ineligible persons.
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Why must letters be mailed unsealed?

To allow inspection by postal authorities to ensure that the materials qualify for mailing free of postage.
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Are special services available for free mail for eligible persons?

A mailer may insure a postage-free parcel by paying only the required insurance fee. All matter sent by all special services, such as Express Mail, certified mail, or registered mail, requires payment of postage plus the full fees charged for the special postal services.
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What must be marked on mail to show that it is qualified for mailing free of postage?

In the upper right corner of the address side of the envelope or parcel where the postage would normally be placed, the words "FREE MATTER FOR THE BLIND OR HANDICAPPED" must be placed. The words may be printed, rubber stamped, or handwritten.
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Are special arrangements possible for delivery or pickup of free mail for eligible persons?

Eligibility for free mailing for the blind or other visually handicapped persons does not encompass such special arrangements. Post offices may be able to make special arrangements depending on the local circumstances. Customers should contact their local post office to request special arrangements. Such requests will be handled in accordance with the postal regulations concerning requests for special arrangements by handicapped persons.
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Is international service available for blind and other visually handicapped persons?

Yes, the same general rules apply, except that the articles that may be mailed are limited to:

  1. Books, periodicals, and other matter (including unsealed letters) impressed in Braille or other special type for the use of the blind.
  2. Plates for embossing literature for the blind.
  3. Discs, tapes, or wires bearing voice recordings and special paper intended solely for the use of blind or visually handicapped persons, provided that they are sent by or addressed to an officially recognized institute for the blind.
  4. Sound recordings or tapes that are mailed by blind or other visually handicapped persons.

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Where might an individual turn for help if problems occur while using the procedures for free mailing for the blind and handicapped?

Most problems can be resolved at your local post office. Customers may make inquiries or express concerns by telephone or letter, in person, or by using our convenient consumer service cards. These postage-paid cards are available at all post offices. If a problem cannot be resolved satisfactorily at your local post office, you may write to:

CONSUMER ADVOCATE
UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE
475 L'ENFANT PLZ SW RM 5821
WASHINGTON DC 20260- 2200

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SECTION 135: THE LAW FOR MAILING FREE MATTER

135.1 GENERAL.

Matter mailed by or for the use of blind or other handicapped persons may be mailed free of postage provided the sender, the recipient, and the matter being mailed comply with the applicable conditions of this section.
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135.2 DEFINITIONS

135.21 BLIND OR HANDICAPPED. For purposes of this section, blind or other handicapped persons are those who cannot read or use conventionally printed material because of a physical impairment and who are certified by a competent authority as unable to read normal reading material.

135.22 COMPETENT AUTHORITY. For purposes of this section, a competent authority includes any licensed medical doctor, ophthalmologist, optometrist, registered nurse, or professional staff member of a hospital or other institution or agency.
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135.3 LIST OF QUALIFIED INDIVIDUALS

135.31 POSTMASTER'S RECORD. To assist in determining eligibility to mail matter under the provisions of this section, postmasters must establish and maintain USPS 010.060 (see Privacy Act System of Records, Administrative Support Manual, Appendix) as a record of their customers who are blind or handicapped (as defined in 135.21). The postmaster also may require, and include as part of the record, a statement by a competent authority certifying that the individual is unable to read conventionally printed material.

135.32 CUSTOMER INFORMATION. Customers wishing to know whether they are recorded as a blind or other handicapped person (as defined in 135.21) may submit inquiries to the postmaster, giving their full name and address.

135.33 ESTABLISHING ELIGIBILITY. A customer who wishes to be added to the postmaster's record and establish eligibility for mailing privileges under this section must submit his name and address, and a written statement of certification by a competent authority.

135.34 POSTMASTER'S PERSONAL KNOWLEDGE. When the postmaster has personal knowledge that a particular customer has been certified as blind or handicapped (as defined in 135.21), the postmaster may include that individual in the list required by 135.31, and may extend to that individual mailing privileges under this section. In such instances, no written statement of certification is required.
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135.4 MATTER FOR BLIND OR OTHER HANDICAPPED PERSONS

135.41 ACCEPTABLE MATTER. The following matter may be mailed free of postage, subject to the conditions in 135.42:
a. Reading matter and musical scores.
b. Sound reproductions.
c. paper, records, tapes, and other material for the production of reading matter, musical scores, or sound reproductions.
d. reproducers or parts thereof, for sound reproductions.
e. Braille writers, typewriters, educational or other materials or devices, or parts thereof, used for writing by, or specifically designed or adapted for use of, a blind person or a person having a physical impairment described in 135.2.

NOTE: Letters prepared in any form by sighted individuals, to be sent to a blind or other handicapped person, or empty shipping materials for use in mailing matter described in 135.41, cannot be sent free under 135.41 and must bear the full applicable postage.

135.42 CONDITIONS. The matter listed in 135.41 must comply with the following conditions:
a. The matter must be for the use of a blind or other handicapped person, as described in 135.2;
b. Either no charge, rental, subscription, or other fee is required for such matter or if required may not exceed the cost of the item;
c. The matter may be opened by the Postal Service for inspection; and
d. The matter contains no advertising.
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135.5 MATTER SENT BY BLIND OR OTHER HANDICAPPED PERSONS

135.51 ACCEPTABLE MATTER. Only the following matter may be mailed free of postage, subject to the conditions in 135.52:
a. Letters in raised characters or in sight-saving type (i.e., 14+ point or larger), or
b. Letters in the form of sound recordings

NOTE: Letters that are handwritten or that are printed or typed in a type size smaller than 14 point, cannot be sent free under 135.51 and must bear the full applicable postage.

135.52 CONDITIONS. The matter listed in 135.51 must comply with the following conditions:
a. It must be unsealed, and
b. It must be sent by a blind or other physically handicapped person, as defined in 135.2.
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135.6 PREPARATION

135.61 MARKINGS. All matter mailed under the provisions of this section must show the words, "Free Matter for the Blind or Handicapped," in the upper right corner of the address side.

135.62 SPECIAL SERVICES

135.621 INSURANCE. All matter mailed under the provisions of this section may be insured (see 913) upon payment of the appropriate insurance fee.

135.622 OTHER SPECIAL SERVICES. No other special services are available for matter mailed free of postage under provisions of this section. If mailers desire such services, they must pay the applicable fees for the special services and the full postage applicable to the class of mail selected.

135.63 WEIGHT AND SIZE LIMITS. Matter mailed under the provisions of this section must meet the minimum size requirements in 127 and may not exceed the maximum dimensions shown in 751.

135.64 MAILABILITY. Matter mailed under the provisions of this section must comply with the prohibitions and conditions in 123 and 124.

135.65 PACKAGING. Matter mailed under the provisions of this section should be packaged and addressed as recommended by 121 and 122.
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135.7 HANDLING.

Matter mailed free under the provisions of this section is not considered to be part of any particular class of mail and is not protected against postal inspection. For the exclusive purposes of determining appropriate standards and procedures for processing and delivery, and for handling if undeliverable, such matter will be treated as First-Class Mail.
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135.8 INTERNATIONAL MAIL.

The provisions of this section are applicable to domestic mail only. See International Mail Manual 250 for information concerning free matter for the blind in international mail.

Source document: www.usps.com/cpim/ftp/pubs/pub347/welcome.htm