and Other Items Mailable as Free Matter for the Blind or Handicapped
Updated October 1996
Support Ruling discusses requirements for material mailable as Free
Matter for the Blind and Other Physically Handicapped Persons.
provides for the payment of postage on certain matter mailed for the
blind and other handicapped persons who cannot use or read
conventionally printed material. However, the materials which may
be mailed and the conditions under which they may be mailed are
controlled by law.
The free mailing
privileges for blind and other handicapped persons are authorized by
the provisions of sections 3403, 3404, and 3405 of Title 39, United
States Code (Public Law 91-375), and implemented in Domestic Mail
Manual (DMM) 703.5.
provisions of DMM 703.5.3.1, unsealed 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 by a blind person or a
physically handicapped person who cannot use or read conventionally
printed material. No provision is made for letters prepared by
handwriting or regular-sized typewriting to be mailed without proper
postage at the First-Class rate.
the "unsealed" requirement was adopted by Congress to assure that
letters mailed free of postage are prepared in accordance with the
requirements of the law. These specific requirements meet the needs
of blind or physically handicapped individuals. In order to assure
that matter mailed free of postage by the blind and physically
handicapped persons does not run afoul of the requirements set by
law, the Postal Service interprets "unsealed" as meaning letters
that are prepared so they can be easily examined by postal
authorities. For instance, they may be fastened with flaps tucked
in, but without the use of cellophane tape or other adhesive, with
string and tab closures, or by other similar means.
No provision is
made for letters prepared in any form by sighted individuals to be
mailed to the blind or physically handicapped without proper
prepayment of postage at the applicable rate.
addition to visual impairment which prevent normal reading are
disabling paralysis, muscle or nerve deterioration affecting
coordination and control, and confinement in iron lungs or other
mechanical devices. Among the causes of these conditions are
cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, arthritis,
infantile paralysis, myasthenia gravis, and diplegia.
The law requires
that the physical impairment be certified by a competent authority
such as a doctor, optometrist, registered nurse, or professional
staff member of a hospital or other institution or agency. The
certification should be submitted to the post office where mailings
will be made or received.
organizations may mail, postage free, musical scores, books,
magazines, and other reading matter in braille, 14-point or larger
sight-saving type and sound recorded form to an eligible, disabled
individual for his/her own use or to an agency or organization
specifically serving the blind or physically handicapped if the
charge for the items does not exceed the cost and if there is no
advertising contained in the materials.
mailed under provisions of DMM 703.5 must show the words "Free
Matter for the Blind or Handicapped" in the upper right corner of
the address side. Those words may be printed, rubber stamped, or
printed material in regular size print cannot be mailed postage
free, neither by handicapped individuals nor organizations, even
though the intent is to transcribe or record such matter for the use
of blind and handicapped persons. Such materials are subject to the
applicable Standard Mail rates of postage.
Anita J. Bizzotto
United States Postal Service
Washington DC 20260-3436