Reading service offers alternate news source to the vision impaired

November 07, 2006
For many Americans, low vision is a constant source of frustration. The inability to see well often limits a person’s ability to perform even the most routine tasks, like driving or reading.

A local non-profit group serving Southeastern North Carolina, has recently partnered with New Hanover Regional Medical Center to offer patients a way to listen to daily, local news, without the frustration of squinting over print that’s too small.

Cape Fear Eastern Area Radio Reading Service, or EARRS, is a daily reading service that broadcasts local and regional newspapers over a television channel. EARRS has been programmed onto televisions in all patient rooms at NHRMC and Cape Fear Hospital.

Hospital employee Maura Collins, who works at the reception desk, also volunteers her time reading for this service. She sees it as a carryover from a previous volunteer job in New York City reading books for the blind through the Library of Congress.

“I really got a lot out of that,” she said. “That’s why I was so glad to see a service down here for the blind.”

Although there are some differences, namely the EARRS service broadcasts to a listening audience, the objective of providing a reading service to an underserved population is still the same.

“This way you have a live audience, which you don’t see, but it’s out there,” said Collins. “And you feel like you’re doing something. Once in awhile, you’ll run into someone who’s mother gets it, and they’ll say, ‘I heard you this morning,’ and oh, wow.

“It’s something that you wouldn’t get on television. We read the obituaries, letters to the editor, things that are about people you know. I think it gives kind of a hometown feeling that I don’t think you would get any place else on the radio or television.”

Local news is reported from 9 – 11 a.m each day by a volunteer reader, then repeated twice more during the day. Regional papers from the Triangle area are read at other times, supplemented by news and informational programming that continue the broadcast 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Equipment to broadcast this information was donated to NHRMC by Cape Fear EARRS, serving this region since 1999.

To find out more about EARRS, visit