Radio Reading Service Brings News & Fiction To The Blind

You've probably heard of books on tape, but what about books on radio? It's a new service aimed at helping people suffering from blindness or other vision problems, enjoying the stories and history the rest of us may take for granted.

Reading the morning paper is no longer part of the daily routine for Richard Price. He's legally blind.

"To handle low vision problems, as I have, it's almost impossible to read with comprehension, and I love to read, or used to."

The Radio Reading Service of Mississippi, a division of Public Radio, now offers Price and others the next best thing. Volunteers read the newspaper, which is broadcast throughout the state through a special public radio frequency.

"I like to know what's going on, especially with all the conflicts and all the political stuff going on this year. This is an election year," Price said.

"24 hours a day, seven days a week, every person who's qualified and has the equipment can hear local, state and national newspapers. That includes the Sun Herald, the Clarion Ledger and the Wall Street Journal. They can also hear best sellers and the Bible read at certain times during the week," Director of Hancock County Libraries, Prima Plauche, said.

The reading radio is the newest service to help the blind. The Mississippi Library Commission offers talking books and magazines by mail with more than 43,000 selections.

"After they've listened to their books, they flip the label and put it in their mail box, and it's returned free of charge," Plauche said.

In fact, the listening devices for the books and the reading radio are free in most cases.

"It's very informative. And the combination of that, my radio, and the TV news that I can hear, but I can't see, keeps me informed of what's going on," Price said.

Right now there are about 3800 people tuned into the radio reading program across the state. 350 of those listeners are from the coast.

Again, the listening devices and services are free to anyone who qualifies. You can pick up an application at your local library, or by calling the Radio Reading Service at 1-800-472-2580 or (601) 432-5301.

by Al Showers