Radio service needs readers

Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCKLouisiana Audio Information Reading Service Board President Andy Couvillon sits in the recording studio at Affiliated Blind of Acadiana Monday. The service allows the blind to listen to news stories on a special radio that has been read and recorded by volunteers.   Show caption
Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCKLouisiana Audio Information Reading Service Board President Andy Couvillon sits in the recording studio at Affiliated Blind of Acadiana Monday. The service allows the blind to listen to news stories on a special radio that has been read and recorded by volunteers.

A local radio reading service is in need of volunteers to help bring local news and literature to the visually impaired in Acadiana.

The Louisiana Audio Information Reading Service or LA-AIRS launched the reading service in 2010 with broadcasts of local content. The program also picked up filler from a reading service in Minnesota.

Now, while the Minnesota content is being broadcast, the local programming has had to be pulled because of a lack of volunteers from the Acadiana area, said Andy Couvillion, president of the LA-AIRS Board of Directors.

“We’re working on a way to broadcast our own material,” Couvillion said. “Our top three requests are for newspapers, obituaries and sales ads. We would also like to do Louisiana literature.”

While several volunteers have expressed an interest in reading local content, volunteers to operate or produce the broadcasts are needed, he said.

“The main hurdle right now is getting help operating the studio,” he said. “If I had more help, we could get off the ground.”

Couvillion said the broadcast software is easy-to-use, and he was able to learn the skills quickly without having any prior radio broadcast experience.

LA-AIRS, a nonprofit organized in 2006, and its members forged partnerships with KRVS, the public radio affiliate at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and the Affiliated Blind of Louisiana Training Center and set fundraising efforts in motion to make the reading service a reality.

The reading service broadcasts from a small studio at the Affiliated Blind of Louisiana Training Center using a subcarrier signal made available from the public radio station.

Special radio receivers are needed to hear the service broadcast. The radios are available at no charge to those who need them. However, for those able, a donation of $30 is recommended, Couvillion said.

So far, 35 receivers have been distributed by LA-AIRS, and Couvillion said, the group hopes to increase its audience. No medical proof of visual impairment is needed to request a radio receiver, he said.

“It’s for anyone who can’t access regularly printed material,” Couvillion said. “It could be people with a visual impairment or someone who has muscular dystrophy or Parkinsons’ who can’t hold a paper or someone who is illiterate.”