Blind World Magazine


Government butget cuts spell an end to the Newsline for the Blind and Disabled.





October 18, 2005.
Lansing State Journal, Michigan.




A service that about 2,000 Michigan residents use to listen to newspaper articles will end Nov. 30 because of a lack of money.


The Newsline for the Blind of Michigan serves mainly the sight-impaired, but many others too, some with arthritis or neurological problems, whose doctors certify they can't see or hold a newspaper.


Now, in the wake of government budget cuts and a shrinking pot of private donations, the free service that offers more than 200 newspapers to the people who are blind or have disabilities will end for want of $40,000 in annual funding.


Doug Spade, a former state representative from Adrian, uses the service to hear articles from the Detroit Free Press spoken by computer over the phone. Spade, 54, has been blind since birth.


Spade said he hopes state lawmakers ride to the rescue, but isn't counting on it because "the state budget is so tight now," he said. "If people would just contribute, that would buy some time."


The service has scores of papers, including the Lansing State Journal, which send their contents free each day to the service.


State Rep. Chris Kolb, D-Ann Arbor, said he planned to introduce a bill in the house this year that would add no more than one cent to all phone bills to pay for the service.


Its funding has "bounced from grant to grant," and last year depended on donations, "so what we want is an established funding source," Kolb said.


The service is free, in part because many blind people have low incomes but also because, in 1931, Congress ordered that library services nationwide be offered free to blind people, said Sue Chinault of the Library of Michigan in Lansing.


The service originates in Baltimore at the headquarters of the National Federation of the Blind, the nonprofit group that helped develop the computerized-voice technology.


Each state pays the federation a fee, based on population, up to $40,000 a year, said John Pare, director of sponsored technology programs at the federation. The money pays for computer equipment, a staff of eight and nationwide promotion.


. To learn about Newsline for the Blind of Michigan, call (810) 233-4776.


. To donate to the service, send contributions to National Federation of the Blind in Michigan, 1212 N. Foster, Lansing, MI 48912 and mention the Newsline program.


Contact Bill Laitner of the Detroit Free Press at (248) 351-3297 or laitner@freep.com



Source URL: http://www.lsj.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20051018/NEWS01/510180330/1001/NEWS.




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