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Radio Station For The Visually Impaired Fades To Quiet This Week

David Junius

For more than 40 years, a radio station called the “Evergreen Radio Reading Service” has been broadcasting all day, everyday across Washington State for the "print disabled" -- people who are visually impaired or unable to hold or turn a page.

But the station fades to quiet Friday.

You have to have a special radio to listen. Each day volunteer readers give voice to regional newspapers, sports commentary and even grocery ads. But that’s all over.

Frank Cuta, a legally blind listener from Benton City, said he will miss the station.

“If they are reading the cartoons they describe the cartoons,” he said. “If you’re reading the grocery ads they describe the grocery ads. And grocery ads are pictures. Even with the internet a blind person can’t go out on the internet and read the grocery ads out of the newspaper – they are pictures, you know. So, there are many things that will just be gone.”

Cuta said he’ll also miss listening to curated shows with local and national news while doing other things around the house. Now, he expects he and others -- including seniors -- will have to search more, or get help, to find the same news and information.

Just a few years ago the Evergreen Radio Reading Service had a $150,000 budget, 75 volunteers and two paid employees. State budget cuts curtailed most of that in 2011. But a bit of fudging kept readings of The Seattle Times on the air and volunteers filled in the on-air gaps with reading programs from other states.

Evergreen has been run by the Washington State Library. Oregon’s visually impaired have a station called Omni Media Networks. Idaho had reading services for the print-disabled, until 2008, when funding was cut.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.