In 1975, a trio of blind men started the Central Ohio Radio Reading Service, a nonprofit organization that supports those who can't consume standard print media due to a disability. Renamed VoiceCorps in 2004, the organization now has a range of capabilities, like broadcasting over cable television, podcasts and online streaming.
The age of the 24-hour news cycle is a relatively new one. But for VoiceCorps, it goes back 40 years. In 1975, a trio of blind men started the Central Ohio Radio Reading Service, a nonprofit organization that supports those who can't consume standard print media due to a disability, including visual impairment, dyslexia and the inability to hold a book or turn pages. The name changed to VoiceCorps in 2004 to reflect a larger range of capabilities, like broadcasting over cable television, podcasts and online streaming.
While recording methods have changed-from transcription devices to cassette tapes to digital-VoiceCorps' niche remains the same. "We really focus on periodicals that are too new to be recorded or never will be recorded," says executive director Mark Jividen. This includes a daily live broadcast of The Columbus Dispatch, COTA schedules, trash collection updates and store advertisements. Other programing includes popular exercise broadcast "Get Fit," a live call-in sports show and "From the Bookshelves," serialized readings of popular novels.
It works like this: VoiceCorps "rides on top" of WOSU's radio signal as a sub-carrier. (Once upon a time, nearly every FM radio station in town had sub-carriers, many broadcasting Muzak, the easy-listening fare piped into banks.) This means VoiceCorps can reach anyone within range of WOSU. Subscribers often come to the service through a network of ophthalmologists, hospitals and agencies that help those with severe vision issues. VoiceCorps provides subscribers with a free receiver, or they can tune in through cable or an online account. The typical subscriber is someone older than 50 who has developed a disability later in life and is not likely to learn Braille.
VoiceCorps has a staff of six employees and an army of around 250 volunteer readers. Funded in part by city and state dollars, the rest of the budget is gathered from private foundations and individual donors. Reading services across the country face a challenge in identifying the number of visually impaired persons in a given community; Jividen hopes to overcome that challenge by investing in more outreach. voicecorps.org