Saturday, July 28, 2012

Visually Impaired Residents Tune in to "Talking" Radio

Written by Heidi Capriotti, Marketing Coordinator for Sun Sounds of Arizona

Sun Sounds listener Bob Burrows
and wife Carol
Bob Burrows can read the Arizona Republic with his eyes closed. Like nearly 2000 Valley residents, Bob is visually impaired, and listens to newspapers and other printed information on Sun Sounds of Arizona. For the last 15 years Bob has listened to newspapers read aloud on a special analog radio provided by Sun Sounds. But today Bob will turn on his new “talking” radio to hear the newspaper.

This month, with a grant from Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, Sun Sounds upgraded Bob’s analog radio to The Narrator, a new, accessible AM/FM/HD radio created by Insignia, Best Buy’s private label brand. The Narrator’s voice prompts help people with visual impairments tune the radio, set the clock, and set the alarm. “I love it,” said Bob, “It tells me exactly what button I’ve touched. And the digital signal from Sun Sounds has no interference. It sounds great. Now my wife Carol doesn’t have to find radio stations for me!”

Sun Sounds of Arizona first brought the idea of a digital talking radio to Best Buy’s development team five years ago, citing the number of American consumers with vision loss (an estimated 25 million) and the aging baby-boomer population. Since then, Best Buy has worked closely with David Noble, Development Director at Sun Sounds of Arizona, to bring a universally-designed, digital radio to the market. “Because this radio talks, anyone with low vision can use it right out of the box. But it is also feature-rich for the sighted consumer, at a price point that’s affordable.” says Noble.

When the Narrator came to market, Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust seized the opportunity to help older Valley residents with vision loss access the newest digital radio technology. “Providing access to a reading service via the latest technology aligns with Piper Trust’s mission of making our communities more livable and increasing independence for older adults,” said Carol Kratz, Program Director with Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust. With grant funding from Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, 200 Sun Sounds listeners will receive a free upgrade to the Narrator this summer. Other listeners can purchase the Narrator talking radio on Best Buy’s website.

Sun Sounds of Arizona broadcasts on KBAQ 89.5-HD 3, and is a service of Rio Salado College.

Article published in the Tempe Republic July 28