Fort Worth

Nonprofit radio service ends local programs

A small nonprofit radio reading service for visually impaired North Texans has stopped broadcasting daily newspaper content and other locally produced programs.

Dallas-based Reading & Radio Resource, which operates a small radio station on a subcarrier of KERA and records books and other materials, announced that it is changing focus to help provide funding to other organizations that produce recorded materials and other content for the blind.

Volunteers came to the station and recorded articles from the Star-Telegram, The Dallas Morning News and the Austin American-Statesman, which were then broadcast twice a day. They also recorded audiobooks and hosted shows on everything from cooking to sports.

Interim Executive Director Dave Owen said in an interview Tuesday that the station will remain on the air and broadcast audiobooks and programs from other reading services nationwide while Reading & Radio Resource searches for an organization that will take on running the service.

“It is not our intention to go off the air,” Owen said. “It is about changing content, and the organization that takes over is to provide content to visually impaired listeners.”

Owen said the building, which houses three studios and 12 recording booths, is up for sale.

“We are transforming from being a direct service provider which is what we’ve done for the past 45 years. We are becoming a grant-making and funding resource,” Owen said.

He said blind listeners have more options now for accessing the news and other information than they had 15 or 20 years ago, because of the Internet.

But Stuart Holland, president of the International Association of Audio Information Services board, wrote in an emailed statement: “The mission of our services is to deliver equal access to information for over 20 million Americans who live with a print disability. This happened in the fourth-largest metropolitan area of the United States – an area with 153,000 blind and print disabled individuals. The fact that thousands of listeners are suddenly cut off from the information access they’ve come to rely on is disturbing.”

Owen said he does not have figures showing how many listen to the radio reading programming, but 3,000 special radio receivers have been distributed in Dallas-Fort Worth.

“All newspaper content is available online. There are so many resources out there. I understand there is a concern about individuals who haven’t acquired Internet access,” Owen said.

Elizabeth Campbell, 817-390-7696

Twitter: @fwstliz

Seniors and visually impaired needs

▪ Fewer than 30 percent of audio information listeners live in a household with Internet access.

▪ Screen reader software can cost as much as $1,200. The unemployment rate for blind people is 37.7 percent, making the purchase of such software difficult.

▪ 42 percent of Americans with disabilities do not have access to a computer in their home.

▪ 15 million Americans have been diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness and central vision loss in adults over age 65.

▪ Though computer competency rates among seniors are slowly rising, seniors with disabilities are not adapting to technology at the same rate.

▪ Even with the best technology, the screen reader is only as good as the content on the website. In a study of higher education and government web pages by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, researchers found that less than half of the websites qualified for a passing grade for accessibility.

▪ Difficulties with communication, mobility and social interaction as a result of vision loss can contribute to isolation and depression. The human voices provided by audio information services enhance a sense of connection to the community.

▪ There are 118 reading services in the United States.

Source: International Association of Audio Information Services