Events, IAAIS

IAAIS Conference – Part 2

A few weeks ago, I attended the IAAIS Conference in Minneapolis, which was held from June 6 – 9. The IAAIS (or International Association of Audio Information Services) is a worldwide group of reading services who all provide the reading of printed information in some form or another. Last week, I wrote about what I learned at the first half of the conference. (Read about it here!)

If you’ve ever wondered why Radio Eye is able to read copyrighted material over the air (other than the fact that wonderful newspapers like the Lexington Herald-Leader give us permission along with donating the papers), the reasons are sections 110 and 121 of copyright law, and the doctrine of “fair use,” which state that printed material can be read for the exclusive or primary use of people who are blind. Melanie Brunson of the American Council of the Blind and Maryfrances Evans of IRIS, a reading service serving Iowa, held a lively discussion about how these provisions affect radio reading services – especially those broadcasting on an open channel.

In the technology discussion, we learned that most (86%) of reading services across the country use SCA frequencies and 63% stream on their website. At least one station broadcasts only on a regular FM frequency. 37% use a smartphone app. Most services are likely to add podcasting as their next broadcast method, so listeners can get their programming on-demand instead of having to listen to their newspapers at a certain time.

Bill Phelps of Owl Radio (part of the Low Vision Resource Center) told us about a wonderful partnership of blindness agencies in Texas, the San Antonio Low Vision Club. The club is a specialized support group that holds monthly meetings with visually impaired members of the community, providing information about medical research of eye diseases and local resources for people with vision impairments. The club members also participate in social activities like bingo, bowling, Christmas parties, and have technology days, where club members can try out adaptive devices.

They also provide a resource guide to every member of the club, including information like household hints, low vision clinics, rehabilitation services, and where to find adaptive aids. Bill was so gracious to send me a copy of the guide, so we can use it as a template here in Lexington.

I loved my time at the IAAIS Conference – and I’m so excited to go back next year, when it will be held in Fort Wayne, Indiana, hosted by the Northeast Indiana Radio Reading Service.

~Amy Hatter, Executive Director

Events, IAAIS

IAAIS Conference – Part 1

Last week, I attended the IAAIS Conference in Minneapolis, which was held from June 6 – 9. The IAAIS (or International Association of Audio Information Services) is a worldwide group of reading services who all provide the reading of printed information in some form or another. Many of the organizations are radio reading services (like Radio Eye!), some provide their readings over the telephone (like our partner, NFB-Newsline), and others broadcast over cable TV or even regular FM radio.

This was my second time attending an IAAIS Conference. The first was in 2011, only a month after I took over as Radio Eye’s Executive Director. I was just a little baby director – I didn’t even know what questions I should ask these veterans of the industry! This time was a little different, because I was coming as new IAAIS board member.

I arrived on Thursday, after a long 10-hour day of traveling. I was exhausted, but so excited to meet and learn from people from organizations so much like Radio Eye!

At the first session, we got to hear from Minnesota Radio Talking Book Network long time listener, Jane Toleno. Toleno says the most important thing for a reader to have is a delight in reading. It really comes through in the reading when a volunteer loves what they’re doing, and is really into the subject material. She also says, “Don’t assume what we want.” People who are blind or visually impaired have the same diversity of taste as people with full 20/20 vision.

That night, we went on a tour of the Minnesota Radio Talking Book Network. Unlike Radio Eye, their reading service is part of the State Services for the Blind. In addition to radio reading, they read textbooks for students, as well as fiction and non-fiction books available for loan to their subscribers, and they Braille books and other material. Their 19 recording booths help with this. They are also the only station nationwide to use FMExtra to broadcast their programming. FMExtra is a form of digital radio broadcasting.

We learned that 86% of radio reading services use SCA (sub-carrier authorization) radio, just like Radio Eye does in Lexington and Louisville. One major issue with this technology is crosstalk, where the audio from one station bleeds into another, from their main station. We’ve recently had some problems with this on our Louisville station, but thankfully, our engineer and Louisville Public Media’s engineer were able to get together and fix the problem. (If you’re in Louisville, and you hear crosstalk, please email us at or call 859-422-6390 to let us know.)

Radio reading has a long history of attracting dedicated, loyal, long-time volunteers (just ask our own volunteers, many who have been reading for us for 10, 15, or 20 years!). Many of you know about the closing of InTouch Networks, the former national reading service out of New York that provided all of Radio Eye’s afternoon and overnight programming for many years. Through them, our listeners heard such programs as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Our World (a wonderful program on disabilities). They provided the same to many reading services across the U.S.

In 2009, InTouch lost their funding, and had to close their doors. Not satisfied with that, the former staff and volunteers worked to bring the service back to life. At the conference, I met Gordon Rothman, the Program Director of the newly-renamed Gatewave. Gatewave has no full-time home, and most volunteers record out of their homes. Still, they read hundreds of newspapers and magazines each week, broadcasting 6 hour days, which are repeated.

There was a lot going on in those four short days, a lot to learn, and a lot of people to meet and greet. Next week, I’ll tell you what I learned about copyright law, technology, and a service in Texas that has created a wonderful partnership of various blindness agencies.

~Amy Hatter
Radio Eye, Executive Director