WHCP to begin offering Radio Reading Service for the Blind on Thursday

Dorchester Banner/Courtesy of Mike Starling Molly K. Spicer, a local, blind singer from Cambridge who serenades her neighbors, received on Monday the first radio that will broadcast the WHCP Radio Reading Service for the Blind.

Dorchester Banner/Courtesy of Mike Starling
Molly K. Spicer, a local, blind singer from Cambridge who serenades her neighbors, received on Monday the first radio that will broadcast the WHCP Radio Reading Service for the Blind.

CAMBRIDGE ­— Mike Starling of WHCP, Cambridge Community Radio, wants to get the word out about getting the word out — spoken word for the blind, that is.

This Thursday is World Sight Day and Mr. Starling, president and general manager of 101.5, will launch the WHCP Radio Reading Service for the Blind. Partnering with the Metropolitan Washington Ear, a 24/7, 365-days-per-year reading service, WHCP will make the offering totally free to the print disabled who may qualify by providing proper medical documentation.

Using funds from a grant provided by the nonprofit radio station’s board, WHCP is getting the program started with 25 $50 radio receivers that will be distributed in the community. WHCP’s first broadcast was July 4, 2015. When Mr. Starling first opened the station, it was his intention to eventually offer the reading service.

He discovered, through a conversation with Dr. Paul D. Brant, of Cambridge Family Eye Care and former president of the Maryland Optometric Association, that there are hundreds of print disabled people in Dorchester County. Mr. Starling hopes to reach all of the print disabled, and also intends to eventually localize readings.

“There are three things we need,” Mr. Starling said. “We need to identify the print disabled that would be interested in having the service on a free basis. Then, of course, we need volunteers that would come in and be interested in reading local publications. The third thing is to do sufficient fundraising so that we’ve got plenty of receivers as we start getting a backlog of people that are saying ‘I’d like to get one.’”

With a number of receivers already in hand, the first was given to Molly K. Spicer, one of Mr. Starling’s neighbors. When he first moved to Cambridge in 2007, he often heard someone singing old country songs, standards and Gospel from his backyard. He spoke to a neighbor who told him that Ms. Spicer is blind and has sung outside for years.

“It’s just wonderful being serenaded like that when you’re outside,” Mr. Starling said. “She would sit there for hours on end just singing in the backyard.”

Based in Silver Spring, the Metropolitan Washington Ear offers readings of books, newspapers including The Washington Post, and magazines. To supplement the round-the-clock service, Mr. Starling hopes to get local volunteers, including high school students, to help launch a local reading service. He would like volunteers to read selections from the Banner, Attractions magazine, and other local publications. He will also invite local authors to read their books.

“This will be a training ground for the students that we’re working with at the high school to learn broadcasting. So, they’ll come in and operate, staff the controls,” of the sound board while volunteers read, Mr. Starling said. “We have three interns from our local high schools already.”

Mr. Starling also aims to train high school students to help distribute the radio receivers to the reading disabled and teach them the basics of operation. He said that the station’s broadcast range does not reach far beyond Dorchester County’s borders, but people in Talbot County have inquired about the new service. The service will also be web-based and can be accessed by the medically qualified through the Internet.

“We hope to spread the word up and down the Eastern Shore,” Mr. Starling said. “If you are beyond the reach of our signal, we’ll give you access to the streaming service.”
But for now, Mr. Starling’s goal is to reach out to the Dorchester community. For now, WHCP representatives are communicating with area optometrists, ophthalmologists and Lions clubs.

“It’s our aim to try to find all of the reading disabled and make them aware of the service and say, ‘if you’d like a radio, we’ll do our best to get you on the list and get you one,’” he said. “The key to this is the service is it’s absolutely free. We didn’t want economics to be a barrier in order to have access to this service. The rest of us take it for granted that we can read the newspaper and stay informed.”

For more information about the WHCP Radio Reading Service for the Blind, how to get a receiver or streaming service, volunteer or donate, call 443-637-6000 or e-mail info@whcp.org.

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