Blind World Magazine

Sightless on the verge of losing access to local news.

November 10, 2005.
Flint Journal, Michigan.

Readers who keep in touch with their communities through Newsline for the Blind remind even those of us in newspaper publishing how vital a paper is to its customers. Just ask someone on the verge of losing access to his or her local news.

That is the plight of the Michigan residents who rely on Newsline, which makes USA Today, The Flint Journal and the Detroit Free Press available via telephone to readers whose vision does not permit them to follow the written word. From Newsline they can pick and choose which articles to hear, scan or skip - the same as a well-sighted reader.

The National Federation of the Blind, which provides this service in about 37 states, has been struggling uphill to keep up support, and now in what seems an act of near desperation, is turning to state legislatures. Some have already agreed to subsidize, but in Michigan advocates are only at the stage of asking for a bill that would provide $40,000 to keep Newsline readers on the telephone lines.

Some would counter that plenty of news can be gleaned from radio and television. But beneficiaries of Newsline point out that these sources are often short on local coverage and announcements of community events.

So for visually impaired people fighting isolation, Newsline could be called a lifeline. If lost, the more fortunate among users might have willing readers to assist them in their homes, but many would not.

There is room for debate over whether the Legislature should take on the responsibility, even though the amount being sought is small. But there is no questioning the value of this service to its users.

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