Reading Service for Blind, Disabled Continues Despite Pandemic
For two years, people in the Quad Cities who are blind or unable to read local newspapers have relied on one person.
Known as APRIS (pronounced "ape-riss"), the Augustana Public Radio Information Service is broadcast by WVIK on a special radio signal, and online. Usually, volunteers come to the station to read local and regional newspapers.
But since the beginning of the pandemic, APRIS Coordinator Pete Peterson has been reading by himself, every weekday. He arrives early to read newspapers for two hours, half the time volunteers would ordinarily provide.
The daily readings are from the Dispatch & Argus, Quad-City Times, Clinton Herald, and Chicago Tribune. The weekly readings feature the Aledo Times Record, Erie Review, Geneseo Republic, Muscatine Journal, and Orion Gazette. Pete reads not only the articles, but also the "News of Neighbors" - weddings, engagements, obituaries, plus advertisements, entertainment, religion, and other announcements.
Jay Pearce is the CEO of WVIK and Augustana Public Media. He occasionally gets a call from an APRIS listener. He says they miss the connection with the volunteers and the volunteers miss performing the valuable service they provide.
When APRIS is not broadcasting local newspapers, it airs the Talking Information Center, based in Marshfield, Massachusetts. Executive Director, Anna Dunbar, says the nonprofit offers continuous, free programs that feature volunteers reading from many national newspapers such as the New York Times, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal, plus magazines, books, and cultural information.
She says the population the center serves is isolated to begin with and COVID just made it worse. Listeners tell her the Talking Information Center is a lifeline to them, like a friend in the room who's reading to them.
Hundreds of people in the Quad Cities, and thousands around the country, rely on these reading services and the Talking Information Center.
WVIK's Jay Pearce says APRIS is a key part of the station's mission. And he thinks a lot more people could benefit from hearing local newspaper content if they knew about it. So if you know someone who'd benefit, please contact WVIK.
By the way, volunteer Steve Imming has helped out during the pandemic on rare occasions when Pete was unavailable.