You’ve Got Mail! US Postal Service Offers Programs for the Disabled

A mail truck parked on a street in a residential neighborhood.

I never saw the 1998 romcom, “You’ve Got Mail” but  I understand the title. Receiving mail  can be thrilling and exciting. Opening a package  or letter from a friend or love one brings positive feelings. Of course, unless it’s the bill collector! Otherwise most people are happy to receive mail. People with vision loss share the same sentiment but with  a little stress. This is because  we can’t always read the package or letter. Sometimes we don’t even know mail has arrived. Or we have difficulties  retrieving the mail  from the mailbox. So, what is the solution?

The US Postal Service recognizes  some of these problems. They have provided services  the blind and disability community can use. Saturday, Feb. 4 is National Thank a Mail Carrier Day and in honor of this observation I will share these options and how they benefit my life.

1. Free Matter for the Blind

This program allows eligible participants to receive and send mail for free. Mail that qualifies as Free Matter includes large print documents, braille, audio recordings and talking book players.

When I worked at the Center for the Visually Impaired, we qualified for this program. We could send  materials to blind and visual impaired clients  free. The cool thing is it works both ways.

Display of NLS Talking Book Player, Cartridges and Earbuds
Display of NLS Talking Book Player, Cartridges and Earbuds

I can receive items from organizations serving the blind and mail them back for free. I get  blind products and audiobooks  plus audio described movies from the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Impaired. I don’t have to pay postage to send those items back.

Also, I have used the program when mailing my white cane for repair  to a local orientation and mobility instructor. I will place the cane in a packing envelope and take to the post office. There they will stamp it free matter and mail it.

2. Deliver Mail to Your Door

Called disability delivery or doorstep delivery. This service is available if a person is unable to retrieve their mail from a mail unit . I qualified because I  am blind and live in a subdivision where the mail  is delivered to one  location instead of each individual house. This location is unsafe for me to travel. Instead, my mail is delivered to my front door.

Row of about 8 residential style mailboxes

To apply I had to write a letter explaining my situation and provide medical documentation of my disability. Once I was approved I had to install, at my home, a certified US Postal Service mailbox which I found at a local home improvement store. The mailbox is next to my front door with my house number clearly displayed.

3. Informed Delivery

This program is not specific for the disabled but we benefit anyway. Once you sign up, the US Postal Service will send a daily email  with scanned images of the mail you are to receive  that day or in the next couple of days. This includes letters and packages. Although I can’t see the images  I  can read the text with my screen reader notifying me mail is on the way. I don’t check my mailbox daily so this service gives me advance notice. Plus I know who the mail is coming from so if I am expecting something important I know it ahead of time.

When it comes to mail these programs make living with a visual disability a little easier. When I get my notice you’ve got mail I feel very little stress or anxiety. Thanks US Postal Service.

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