Cheektowaga, NY - For Sunday morning Daybreak we take you a Unique Place in Western New York which really provides a valuable service for the blind and visually impaired residents of our region. 2 on Your Side introduces you to some of the staffers and volunteers of the Niagara Frontier Radio Reading Service.
It's located on Harlem Road in Cheektowaga but it's really a window on the world for the blind and visually impaired people in Western New York.
Tthe headlines and other information of the day from newspapers, magazines, books, and other sources are presented through this program of volunteer readers which began in 1987. It has since provided 250 - thousand hours of read - aloud content for its specialized audience. Volunteer Reader Linda Rinella says "We're providing a service so that all members of the community have access to the same type of information. Just because your sight impaired doesn't mean that you can't read."
The volunteer readers like Larry Beanan know their listeners follow along to better understand what's really happening. "What you try to do is pace yourself so that you're reading so that they can understand. So that you're reading to someone who doesn't have facts and figures in front of them on paper. So you wanna read it at a pace so that they can pick that out. If you're reading numbers...say unemployment numbers for the month...you're visualizing how they're doing this without having things right in front of them on a sight-wise basis."
Of course it's not all hard news There's also best selling novels and books as Larry points out
"You'll read say a chapter or as much as you can read for an hour and someone else will pick up. But that's good because you can get into the characters there and put some inflection into it."
That information comes into their homes on these available radio receivers which just pick up the service on an unused audio side channel to the main WNED Radio signal. There are several thousand in use and they're available for a 50 dollar subscription fee or free of charge for those who can't afford one for anyone deemed print - handicapped...that is unable to read because of a physical condition.
The service was started by Bob Sikorski who was touched by his father's loss of sight to glaucoma.
"I wish we'd go out of business tomorrow if blindness were eradicated. But what we are is a wonderful way of improving the quality of life for people who are blind and visually impaired. And as one person told me a few years ago...before Radio Reading I was afraid to engage in conversations...now I lead them."
Skirorski says this has been a particularly challenging year for finances to run the not for profit program.
For more information on the Niagara Frontier Radio Reading Service, especially for volunteering and contributions, go to http://www.NFRADIOREADING.com