LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Many Kentuckians do not think twice about reading their local newspaper, but for those without the ability to see, gaining access to information can be difficult – especially in smaller communities.
Accessibility can be tough, but one nonprofit is making it easier for the visually-impaired one recording at a time. Radio Eye helps about 10,000 listeners all over Kentucky every day.
Around 200 volunteers recording readings of local newspapers every week, covering everything from crime to community events.
"Front page first, get the obituaries, little sports, and then you can do the rest after that,” volunteer reader and Radio Eye Board Member Christopher Clements said.
The service started in 1991. Since then, it covers papers ranging from the Courier-Journal and Pike County News to the New York Times and People Magazine.
"How will they know about things? How will they get news? How will they get information? It's that socialization piece about hearing a voice,” Clements said.
Between the Louisville and Lexington studios, volunteers are responsible for about 4,000 hours of programming a year. They record themselves reading the paper and the reading is streamed on air or posted as a podcast.
Recordings run all day, a convenience that many listeners said is key.
"I will say play Louisville stream, and it automatically starts playing. You can't get any more accessible than that,” Roderick said. "The information is right there, so I don't have to worry about scrolling back and forth between articles. Whenever a paper puts up stuff, there's always extra stuff on the screen to listen through. Radio Eye has the advantage that they get right to those articles."
While listeners take so much away from the recordings, volunteer reader Dixon Martin said volunteering with Radio Eye has helped him feel like he is contributing to the community.
"I really want to contribute to the world and making it a better place, and this is a way I can do it,” Martin said. "It makes a huge difference. It feels really good to know that you're helping people."
Volunteers can read in the service's two studios in Louisville and Lexington, or in the privacy of their own home like Martin.
"As you get to read it, you feel a connection to it. I already feel like I know the county judge and the mayor and different other officials,” Clements said. "If you're comfortable reading, you've got a pretty good voice, and you can give up about 30 minutes of your time, you can do it. Why not?”
Clements said volunteering not only brings listeners the news, but helps readers feel closer to their community as well.
"It's kind of like a double-win. I feel good about it, and I know I'm doing something good for the community, too,” Clements said.
Most volunteers can get through a recording in about 45 minutes to an hour. Readers just need a smartphone and tablet or computer to read from. To volunteer, visit radioeye.org/volunteer and fill out an online volunteer application.
To listen to a stream, visit radioeye.org/ways-to-listen.