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Wash. State Radio Station For The Visually-Impaired Fades To Quiet This Week

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David Junius
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Volunteer Richard Berndt will read the Evergreen Radio Reading Service’s last Seattle Times on Friday at noon, 6 and 11 p.m.";

For more than 40 years, a radio station called the Evergreen Radio Reading Service has been broadcasting all day, every day across Washington state for the print-disabled — people who are visually-impaired or unable to hold or turn a page.

But the station is fading to quiet today.

Just a few years ago, the station had a $150,000 budget, 75 volunteers and two paid employees. State budget cuts curtailed most of that in 2011. But a bit of fudging kept readings of The Seattle Times on the air, and volunteers filled in the on-air gaps with reading programs from other states. With a special radio, listeners could hear reports from regional newspapers, sports commentary and even grocery ads.

Frank Cuta, a legally-blind listener from Benton City, says he’ll miss the station.

“If they are reading the cartoons they describe the cartoons,” he said. “If you’re reading the grocery ads they describe the grocery ads. And grocery ads are pictures. Even with the Internet, a blind person can’t go out on the Internet and read the grocery ads out of the newspaper; they are pictures, you know. So there are many things that will just be gone.”

Cuta says he’ll also miss listening to curated shows with local and national news while doing other things around the house. Now he expects he and others, including seniors, will have to search more or get help to find the same news and information.

Evergreen has been run by the Washington State Library. Oregon’s visually-impaired have a station called Omni Media Networks. Idaho had reading services for the print-disabled, until 2008, when funding was cut.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.