Thursday, January 10, 2013

Sun Sounds of Arizona Earns FCC Award for Advancement in Accessibility


Staff at Sun Sounds of Arizona, a reading and information access service, designed an award-winning “talking radio” called The Narrator. The FCC gave Sun Sounds of Arizona the Award for Advancement in Accessibility last month. The Narrator serves people who are blind or living with vision loss who turn to radio as a source for news and entertainment.

The Narrator is an AM/FM/HD radio that guides users with verbal prompts on how to use the interfaces on the radio. Users activate The Narrator’s voice by touch. When a person pushes a button, the button speaks to tell the user its function. If a user pushes the “tune up” button, the radio will say “tune up,” followed by a confirmation of what radio frequency is activated, such as 89.5 HD3; the frequency for Sun Sounds of Arizona.

Sun Sounds of Arizona Director Bill Pasco and Director of Development Dave Noble worked as part of an International Association of Audio Information Services committee to bring The Narrator to life. Noble served as the committee chair and Pasco the principle author of the published standards.

The team also included Mike Dahnert from Best Buy and Joe D’Angelo from iBiquity Digital, which helped to produce a retail model that became available at Best Buy online in July. The product was so well received, it has already sold out. Best Buy promised to bring a new accessible radio to market in a few months.

“All the essential functions of the radio are spoken for the user, and it comes out of the box that way,” said Dave Noble. “Sighted users or others who don’t want the vocal prompts can easily switch them off making this a truly universal design.”

Now in its second year, the FCC Awards for Advancement in Accessibility recognized outstanding, innovative products, services and technologies or practices introduced to the public between July 31, 2011 and July 31, 2012. The awards focused on six categories: Consumer Empowerment Information; Mobile Applications; Civic Participation Solutions; Education: College or University; Video Programming; and Geo-Location Solutions. The IAAIS team competed with eleven other organizations to receive the top honor in the category of Consumer Empowerment Information.

“This collaboration is proof that the private and public sector can work hand and hand to create positive change,” said Bill Pasco, who has served as Sun Sounds’ Director for the last 16 years. “The award also serves as a symbol of what we strive to do at Sun Sounds every day. The debut of The Narrator at the 35th Annual IAAIS Conference in Houston was truly a great step forward in the accessibility of consumer products.”

Sun Sounds of Arizona 
Sun Sounds of Arizona, established in 1979, is a radio reading and information access service for people who cannot read print due to a disability. It is a community service of Rio Salado College’s Division of Public Service, which also includes 89.5 KBAQ and 91.5 KJZZ. Sun Sounds and 500 volunteers across the state provide information access free of charge, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week using radio, cable systems, telephone and the Internet. For more information, visit

Rio Salado College
Rio Salado College was established in 1978 by the Maricopa Community College District to provide the next step in education for non-traditional students. The college, headquartered in Tempe, Arizona, was recently recognized as the fastest growing community college in the nation serving nearly 70,000 students annually. In addition to providing high-quality instruction for 100+ degree and certificate pathways, Rio Salado is dedicated to providing flexible, affordable access through; adult basic education, collaborative partnerships, early college initiatives and online learning.