Crucial Audio Reading Service for the Blind Facing Serious Budget Cuts

The Kansas Audio Reader Network received a $100,000 or 14% budget cut in the latest string of efforts to reduce the Kansas deficit. The service is an extremely important part of thousands of Kansans lives with a visual impairment, blindness, or print related disability. The service relies on volunteer readers to read local and national newspapers, magazines, and books over the air or through streaming mediums. The cuts will force the largely volunteer-based organization to alter services and hope donations will cover losses.


The importance of the Kansas Audio Reader Network stems from its role in adapting to sight loss. For Blinded Veterans combating conditions like macular degeneration, diabetes retinopathy, and glaucoma, the Kansas Audio Reader Network serves as a gateway when learning about accommodations and accessible solutions. Listening to the Kansas Audio Reader Network, the Veteran learns about the various independent living programs or feels empowered to ask their Visual Impairment Services Team Coordinator about other Department of Veterans Affairs Blind Rehab Services. Even those of us advance computer and technology enthusiasts still stream the Kansas Audio Reader Network.

To illustrate this example, I have been a consumer of the Kansas Audio Reader Network since learning about it while on Active Duty. As a blind US Army Captain assigned to the University of Kansas to pursue a Masters in Social Work, my Visual Impairment Services Team coordinator and fellow Social Workers informed me about the Kansas Audio Reader Network. I used it to supplement my consumption of local and national periodicals from the Kansas Talking Books. After being reassigned to Fort Leavenworth and living on post, I turned on the Kansas Audio Reader Network every morning before heading to the office. One memory that sticks out is when a Australian volunteer reader finished a section about the housing market around 2010. He included a personal commentary that sent my wife and I laughing to hysterics.

With state and federal budget reductions for services for the disabled, the Kansas Audio Reader Network represents a service we cannot let suffer. You can assist in preventing the degradation of the Kansas Audio Reader Network by reviewing the different ways to donate. Two particular methods to consider involves a direct monetary donation and participating in “For Your Ears Only.” The direct donation method is processed through the University of Kansas endowment, so its completely safe and easy to complete. “For Your Ears Only” takes your gently used audio and music equipment off your hands for resale. The items will be sold at the annual “For Your Ears Only” benefit on September 9th and 10th at the Douglas County Fair grounds. For more information, please contact the Kansas Audio Reader Network at (785) 864-4604, like them on Facebook or @KUAudioReader on Twitter

The NFB Newsline and You

This post comes from John G., a leading NFB-Newsline advocate. An abbreviated version of this post appeared in the July/August BVA bulletin. Personally, I use the NFB-Newsline iOS app to obtain information about my local weather and to subscribe to a couple of newspapers I read occasionally. With any more ado, here is a wonderful summary of the NFB-Newsline.

A blinded veteran will benefit by having the NFB-NEWSLINE® in the audio information tool chest for greater independence! NFB-NEWSLINE® is the world’s largest audio information service for the blind and is free and easy to use through the dial-up touch-tone telephone, iPhone application, the Internet, and portable devices for on-the-go access. Severely and newly visually impaired veterans will remain well informed regarding the top news items of the day in addition to using the service during various adjustment periods as a predisposition to becoming comfortable with more advanced access technology, such as the computer, e-mail, iPhone, Victor Reader, and more… Blinded veterans often depend upon multiple tools to accomplish one task contingent upon the environment or circumstance.

With over 400 publications (newspapers-local, national, and international, magazines, & More…), printed materials are available to a wide array of interests and needs. Emergency Weather Alerts provide valuable information for safety and, through GPS tracking, the emergency information is automatically available to the veteran using the IOS NFB-NEWSLINE Mobile App as Zip Codes change. TV Listings saves time and spares the veteran the frustration of having to seek sighted assistance for basic life matters. Retail store ads equips the shopper with a preview of products which better prepares the shopper. For the younger blinded veterans, the job search feature allows the recovering warriors to freely search for new careers in both the civilian and governmental tribes. College students can conduct global searches for research projects and discover accessible required reading materials.

Navigating the service is easy and powerful! Spell words, move line by line, negotiate articles title by title, and read continually if desired. Using the Pound 9 on the telephone keypad, an article or full publication can be immediately emailed to the veteran’s In Box for further use of the information. VA Regional Groups can post local information using the local channel. Conference agendas provide independent access easily when needed instead of seeking out sighted assistance. Blind Rehabilitation professionals have the freedom to use the service as a training tool to aid the veteran in rediscovering personal interests and maximize the effective use of equipment issued through the Veterans Administration.

Blinded veterans owe it to themselves to subscribe to the service and try it for 10 days. If the service is not enjoyed and useful, the veteran can simply quit using it. NFB-NEWSLINE® is totally FREE to ALL eligible individuals without any membership requirements…

Using NFB-NEWSLINE® is easy and similar to responding to the automated menu when calling up Walmart or the menus of a bank. The difference is you may access international news coverage to the current events from your hometown newspaper. Additional media coverage includes men’s and women’s health concerns, newest and future technology updates, family and religious interests, property development and construction areas, air and space news, and other topics through NFB-NEWSLINE® access to newspapers and magazines.

For more information, contact Scott White, Director of Sponsored Technology Programs, at (866) 504-7300.

Revisiting the Heartland's First Annual Convention

The Heartland Regional Group met for the first time April 14-17, selecting one of the country’s most popular tourist locations for its first annual bi-state convention since the merger of the Kansas and Missouri Regional Groups in 2014.
BVA members from both states were in attendance at the Westgate Branson Hotel in the Woods Resort in Branson, Missouri. Director of District 2 David Fox attended as an invited guest.
The meeting was called to order on April 15 by Douglas Olender, group president. After the Colors were presented by Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 913, the resort staff and management welcomed the regional group and guests.  The six VIST Coordinators attending from VA facilities in the two states were also introduced. Following the opening presentation by Dr. Candice A. Law, Chief of Optometry at the Kansas City VA Medical Center, VIST Coordinators separated for their own training held in conjunction with the BVA meeting. 
Other presenters that day were from state blind rehabilitation services provided from both states, independent living centers, and the Missouri Wolffner Talking Book Library. The opening business meeting convened that afternoon.
The next day featured a presentation by BVA Field Service Director Edward Eckroth on the Field Service Program in general and on claims and changing eligibility rules within VA specifically. Gus McClelland, retired VIST Coordinator from the Kansas City VA Medical Center, was presented a plaque in recognition of his years of service. The closing business meeting followed.  
Douglas Olender was elected to remain president, Howard Adams to continue as vice president, and Paul Mimms as secretary/treasurer. Mark Wilson was elected as Heartland’s delegate to the national convention and Paul Mimms was elected as an alternate delegate. The delegate was to be sent to the convention uninstructed.
As a final item of business, it was moved, seconded, and approved unanimously to return to Branson for the 2017 annual meeting and convention. The dates for the event are April 20-23.