Customer Support Ruling
Unsealed Letters and Other Items Mailable as Free Matter for the Blind or Handicapped
UPDATED October 1996
This CSR discusses requirements for material mailable as Free Matter for the Blind and Other Physically Handicapped Persons.
Congress 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.
Under the 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.
As information, 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.
Handicaps in 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.
Individuals or 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.
All matter 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 handwritten.
Conventionally 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.
Headquarters, US Postal Service
Washington DC 20260-3436