by: Lissa Probus, Volunteer
Since 2010, Radio Eye has been broadcasting from a subcarrier frequency from a transmitter at WUOL in Louisville. This story from 2010 describes the need in Louisville and features Inam, a Radio Eye volunteer! http://archive.courier-journal.com/article/20101230/NEWS01/312300059/Lexington-radio-station-acts-eyes-Louisville-s-blind . As a listener and volunteer, Inam was one of the first to let us know that our signal was degrading on the broadcast side, and while some listeners can access our broadcast live from the web, the radio signal is very important for our listeners without internet access. Troubleshooting, listener calls, and brainstorming for a solution began.
In 2013, our engineer Doug Collins worked with Amy Hatter, our Executive Director, to find a way to boost the reach of our radio broadcast. The final answer was to find a new transmitter and we are and grateful to be broadcasting now from WFPL. The area covered by the new transmitter is a little better, and the signal will be stronger, but that’s not the end of the story.
A new transmitter means our station is now at a different spot on the dial. So, can everybody just pick it up now? No, because we broadcast on a subcarrier frequency. This means our signal is not received by most radios at all. Radio Eye provides radios that have a special subfrequency receiver, and because their purpose is to support listeners with a disability in reading – visual or motor in the case of muscle control or tracking (tremors from conditions like Parkinson’s can make reading fine print impossible) our radios are pre-tuned to the frequency for the area broadcast. This means listeners in Louisville get new radios! It also means picking up all the old radios and sending them back to New York or New Jersey, depending on the brand of radio.
This is not a one day project. Radios we distribute are delivered in person. The radios are in Lexington, the listeners are in Louisville. Over the rest of the summer, staff and volunteers will be arranging to meet each Louisville listener and exchange each radio, making sure the new one receives our signal and that things are working well. Reaching out to our listeners is one of most rewarding things we do, and we’ve written about delivering radios here on the blog (https://radioeye.wordpress.com/2013/11/04/radio-eye-delivers/ ) in the past. This is a bigger project. We have sent letters out to each listener. We have grouped listeners by area. We will call each one to set up a time we can bring the radio, and call again to be sure they will recognize us when we come. We will be following up with each listener to be sure the signal is strong.
We hope the improved signal will encourage new listeners in the Louisville area. We know that for many, our signal means more than just access to information. This change is a good one. We appreciate all of the people who have stepped up to this challenge, WFPL for welcoming us, and the patience of our Louisville listeners most of all.