On Wednesday mornings, I visit the Illinois Radio Reader station within Campbell Hall at the University of Illinois to participate in a unique grant-funded program for the visually impaired. A part-time coordinator works diligently to line up a full roster of volunteers who commit to reading aloud pertinent articles from Central Illinois newspapers, as well as the Wall Street Journal and Christian Science Monitor, and assorted other information (book reviews, cooking tips, local sale notices) for an audience that tunes in through special radio receivers acquired through WILL, our local PBS station, or use of a free app for smart phones.
Most volunteers choose to visit Campbell Hall, as I do, to complete their weekly reading, although some do read from home and submit their content electronically. I enter a miniature recording studio, which is just large enough for a small table holding two screens and a keyboard, along with a chair. The whole unit is carpeted on the interior and exterior, with the exception of a window just above the computer screen, surely put in place to prevent claustrophobia from setting in. I don a headset microphone, and click the “record” button on the right screen when I begin my segment. I provide 28 minutes of recorded time (usually of Vermilion County news), always moving to a reading of obituaries around 18 minutes. With pauses to locate additional articles or take a sip of a drink, my service time usually amounts to about 45 minutes. Then I’m on my way, back to work — or home in the summer — with the gladness of heart that comes from feeling that, if nothing else gets accomplished that day, I’ve at least done a small thing to help others.
If you are interested in learning more about the Illinois Radio Reader or becoming a volunteer, you can visit http://will.illinois.edu/illinoisradioreader for details.