New Horizons January 2017

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RTBS offers visually-impaired persons access to printed information


Among the more than 100 RTBS volunteer readers are (front row, from left): Laura Beth Barr, Sharon Ishii-Jordan, Nancy Holloran, Jean Davis, and Judy Price. Back row, from left: Mike Gaherty and Will Spech.

hanks in large part to its hard working five-person staff, corporate and individual donors, and a dedicated corps of more than 100 volunteers – 60 percent of whom are age 60 and older – the Radio Talking Book Service (RTBS) provides live and recorded human-voiced audio information to more than 3,000 Nebraskans who have visual impairments or physical disabilities that prevent them access to printed

materials. Using volunteer readers and free in-home radio receivers, the Radio Talking Book Network (RTBN) provides no-cost access to information through the reading of newspapers, periodicals, magazines, and occasional books 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In addition, each day from 10 a.m. to noon (and repeated from 6 to 8 p.m.) The Omaha World-Herald and the Lincoln Journal Star are read live on RTBN.

“Since 1974, RTBN has ensured every person has the opportunity to access the current, local information necessary to help them lead self-directed, productive lives,” said RTBS Executive Director Jane Nielsen. “Our mission is to make printed information available to everyone,” said Ralph Morrocco, chair of the RTBS board of directors. RTBS also offers Listening Link, a service that provides audio recordings of textbooks and other college course materials for visually impaired, blind, and learning disabled students.


The RTBN is available through a free in-home radio receiver.

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New Horizons

tilizing a free radio receiver from RTBS that plugs into an electrical outlet, consumers can access retail and grocery ads, or choose programs on topics like cooking, gardening, sports, travel, healthcare, and pets, as well as broadcasts from National Public Radio and NET Radio and Television. “We’re a radio station that reads for the visually impaired, the blind, and for persons who have a disability that prevents them from reading,” Nielsen said. Persons interested in receiving a RTBS radio receiver can fill out an

January 2017

application online at or call 402-572-3003 to receive an application through the mail. A healthcare provider must certify RTBS applicants as being blind, visually impaired, or physically disabled. Once the application is approved, a radio receiver will be mailed or hand delivered to the applicant’s home.


TBS depends heavily on volunteer readers, who combine to read more than 400 hours a month, according to its volunteer coordinator Sybil Mahan. “I love to read and I get a lot of information when I read,” said Jean Davis, a RTBN reader for 36 years. “We (the readers) are the listeners’ link to the world,” said volunteer reader Laura Beth Barr. Mahan said volunteers usually read one 30-minute program a week between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays and from 9 to 11 a.m. weekends. For more information about the Radio Talking Book Service, its programming schedule, or to learn about volunteer opportunities with the organization, please call 402-572-3003 or send an email to

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