Free postal service - Articles for the Blind scheme

Royal Mail operate a scheme called Articles for the Blind which allows blind and partially sighted people to send certain items of post free of charge.

Who can use the Articles for the Blind scheme?

If you are blind or partially sighted and have close-up vision with spectacles of N12 or less then you can use the scheme.

Organisations working with blind and partially sighted people mailing items specifically prepared for use by them can also make use of the scheme. This will include national and local societies for blind and partially sighted people and other organisations such as those producing talking newspapers and magazines.

What you can send using the scheme

You may only send items that have been specially produced or adapted for blind and partially sighted people using the Articles for the Blind scheme. Items covered by scheme are:

  • books, papers and letters - either embossed or in large print (minimum font size 16pt)
  • computer disks and CDs which have been prepared for blind or partially sighted people
  • relief maps
  • spoken audio, video (with added commentary - audio description) and electronic media
  • Talking Books and talking newspapers which are recordings of readings from printed books, journals, newspapers, periodicals or similar publications, but not entertainment programmes which are available on radio or recordings
  • equipment used to play or record audio, video and electronic media such as Talking Books and Talking Newspapers
  • electronic and optical magnifiers
  • games, mathematical devices watches, clocks and measuring equipment
  • embossed or blank plates and devices for producing tactile information
  • stationery for tactile information for mail
  • mobility aids including sticks and guide dog equipment.

Items not accepted under AFB

  • Music audio (more than two minutes of music or more than 10 per cent of the total duration).
  • Printed material in a font smaller than 16 point, unless it is a faithful copy of information that has been transcribed into braille, tape, CD, disk or large print, and where it accompanies the transcribed version.

Weight and size of items

The maximum weight limit of any package is 7kg. The size limits are:

  • rectangular packages - maximum dimensions of 610mm by 460mm by 460mm
  • cylindrical packages - the length must not exceed 900mm and the length added to twice the diameter of the packet must not be more than 1040mm in total.

How the scheme works

Royal Mail treats items sent by the scheme as first class mail.

To use the scheme, the mail you post must have 'Articles for the Blind' on the front cover, either on a label or in writing. It must also show an external return address.

All mail sent by the scheme is subject to inspection by Royal Mail, so you must leave it open, or it must be easy to open and re-seal, or the contents must be visible through the wrapper (enough that Royal Mail can easily confirm that the contents comply with their rules). The only exception is heavy or fragile items, which can be sealed provided prior notification is given via Royal Mail Customer Services. To arrange for sealed items to be accepted for carriage, call 0845 607 6140.

Royal Mail recommends that you do not send personal, sensitive or confidential correspondence such as health or financial information using the scheme as there is a risk that it could fall out of an unsealed envelope and be disclosed at any point in its journey. Send this type of correspondence as normal: sealed and with paid-for mail.

Delivery and collection of items

Items are delivered in the usual way. If you are not around to receive a delivery then your post worker will leave a “While you were out” card.

If you are unable to get to a postbox or Post Office to post your Articles for the Blind items, you can arrange a free collection from home by calling Royal Mail Customer Services on 08457 740 740.

Surcharges

Royal Mail will levy surcharges if someone uses the scheme when they are not allowed to, or if someone sends an item that is not covered by the scheme.

Usually Royal Mail will try to avoid levying a surcharge against the recipient, however, in some cases this will be unavoidable, particularly where return addresses are not provided on the label. If return addresses are provided, then Royal Mail will return items to the sender (without surcharge but requesting that full postage be paid before re-posting).

Has the privatisation of Royal Mail affected the Articles for the Blind scheme?

No. The scheme is protected by law under Section 31 of the Postal Services Act 2011 and is included as a minimum requirement of any postal service, which means the scheme is safe no matter who might replace Royal Mail. A change to the scheme could only happen if proposed by the Secretary of State and voted for by both Houses of Parliament.

Getting help with the Articles for the Blind scheme

If you have any queries about how the Articles for the Blind scheme operates please contact your local sorting office or the Royal Mail Customers Service Department on 0845 774 0740. Businesses should contact 0845 795 0950.