Support us by Volunteering

Looking for a volunteer opportunity that can have a deep and lasting impact on the lives of others? Take a closer look at the fun, challenging and useful ways you can donate your time and talents at State Services for the Blind (SSB).

Without the generous contribution of time and talent from our energetic volunteers, we could not produce the 750,000 pages of Braille that we do each year; record nearly 1,000 books into audio; prepare and record thousands of hours of programming for the Radio Talking Book or repair thousands of audioplayers. In any given year, our volunteers contribute close to 2 million dollars of in-kind contributions. Thank you for considering joining them!


Reading aloud can be a pleasant experience. It can also bring a world of printed material to those who are visually impaired or otherwise unable to read print. SSB's Communication Center depends on volunteers to record standard print. We make custom audio recordings for students, individuals and organizations, as well as broadcast books, magazines and newspapers on our Radio Talking Book, 24/7 reading service.

Do I have the Time?

A minimum three-hour commitment every week throughout the year, barring vacation or illness is what we require. You can record either at the Communication Center's own studios in St. Paul's Midway area, or you can record at home as long as you have a quiet place for recording. We'll provide equipment and assignments.

What Will I Read?

We record a full-range of print materials and subjects without censorship, including fiction, non-fiction, magazine articles, newspapers, textbooks, leisure books and a wide variety of business and organizational materials.

Do I Have the Ability?

Our volunteer readers must be able to read aloud without previous preparation and with a high degree of accuracy and clarity.

Reading aloud is very different than reading to yourself. If you love to read and feel you have expertise in this area, you want to share your joy of reading with others.

You may be someone who can help bring printed words to life for those who cannot read standard print because of a qualifying visual, physical or reading disability.

One of the most necessary reading characteristics we require is the ability to read aloud without previous preparation - and to do it well.

You must be able to follow instructions, correct mistakes and be accurate in your reading and pronunciation. Additionally, you must have clear diction and your reading must:

  • be appropriate to the material, skillfully adding proper emphasis and demonstrating how words fit together for good expression and meaning;
  • communicate accurately the thoughts and ideas set forth in the text;
  • demonstrate fluency and ease
  • bring material to life;
  • maintain a pace that is appropriate to the material; and 
  • avoid being patterned and monotonous.

Sound interesting? Test yourself on the following words:

  1. ambivalence
  2. gubernatorial
  3. nuclear
  4. hallucinatory
  5. niche
  6. dichotomy
  7. rhetoric
  8. unanimity
  9. obsequious
  10. recidivism
  11. queue
  12. bacchanalian
  13. choreography
  14. bureaucracy
  15. deficit
  16. irrelevant
  17. acclimate
  18. pseudonym
  19. barrage
  20. ophthalmologist

If you can pronounce 18 out of the above 20 words without hesitation, and have the reading qualities just described, you may want to apply to become a recording volunteer.

To be accepted as a recording volunteer, you must first pass an oral reading test. The oral reading test consists of nine parts: 1) word pronunciation; 2) general reading; 3) literature; 4) poetry; 5) drama; 6) specialty term tests (optional); 7) newspaper; 8) humor; and 9) a children's story.

How to Apply

If you are interested in becoming a reader, test yourself by pronouncing aloud the twenty sample words. If you can pronounce at least eighteen correctly and with confidence, fill out the volunteer services form. After you submit the form, we will contact you about scheduling a reading test.

If you are interested in other volunteer activities, please call our offices at 651-539-2300 (Twin Cities Metro) or toll-free 800-652-9000.

Prepare Books for Recording

We produce audio recordings with digital markers that allow listeners to easily navigate through the material. Before an item can be recorded, we must create a digital structure of these markers that will be inserted into the material.

Volunteers, using a special computer program, prepare books for recording (textbooks, leisure and books for broadcast) by creating and programming digital markers for the parts, chapters, sections and pages of books that will be inserted into the book during recording.

If you are detail-oriented and a sequential thinker, we need your assistance to prepare books for recording.

How to Apply

For more information and an application, fill out the volunteer services form.

Produce Braille

Historically, braille has been transcribed in the United States by volunteers using manual braillers. Now, much of that work is done through transcription software, but we still have a need for volunteers who have a knowledge of braille. In addition, the Braille Section of SSB draws on the talents of our volunteers for other important work


Volunteers scan material into a computer file so that a Braille translation program can be used to create embossed Braille. Basic computer knowledge is needed and training is provided. Knowledge of the various Braille codes is not required.


Typists volunteer to type material that is not able to be scanned. Typists also "clean up" material that has been scanned so that it can be translated into braille. Knowledge of word processing and accurate typing are necessary for this volunteer position. Knowledge of the various braille codes is not required.

Scanning and typing volunteers are required to provide three to four hours per week during regular business hours at the Communication Center.

Tactile Graphics

Tactile graphics volunteers assist in producing the drawings that are required in mathematics books and other drawings, such as maps, that are required in textbooks. Drawings are prepared by tracing, freehand drawing or using a computer design program. Training is provided and the time required varies with the project being worked on.


This position requires that the volunteer has been earned Certification as a braille transcriber by the National Library Service (Library of Congress) in Washington, D.C. The training for certification takes about a year to complete and is available locally. Upon certification, training is available in transcribing textbooks. The braillists, using computers, either one of their own or one provided by us, transcribe in their homes. At least one braille volume of about 70 pages is required each month.

How to Apply

For more information and an application, fill out the volunteer services form.

Maintain Equipment

The Communication Center loans our customers special Cassette Book players and Digital Book Machines provided to us by the National Library Service for the Blind & Physically Handicapped (NLS-Library of Congress). These machines play specially formatted tapes and digital books provided by us and the NLS to our customers. Volunteers clean and repair these Cassette and Digital Book players.

Basic electronic knowledge is helpful, but mechanical ability and good manual dexterity are necessary. Attention to detail is vital in providing quality repair to these machines.

A commitment of four hours per week on a continuing basis is required. Training, tools, and work space are provided during regular business hours, Monday through Friday, at the Communication Center.

How to Apply

For more information and an application, fill out the volunteer services form.

Produce E-text

We produce books that are machine readable. Most often these are textbooks needed by Minnesota students, who read them using a computer or other device. The books are scanned and run through an optical character recognition (OCR) program that convert the images into text, which is then edited to remove extraneous items and correct OCR mistakes. Next, the documents are converted to Word or DAISY and digital markers are added as needed. Because the book is now an electronic format, it can be searched through key words or navigation markers.

If you have basic computer skills, are proficient in Word and enjoy creating a clean, accurate document, this may be a good volunteer opportunity for you.

For more information and an application, fill out the volunteer services form.