WHCP readers bring Banner to the blind

CAMBRIDGE — “A reliable source of news is important to everyone,” Mari Stanley said Feb. 6. She and fellow volunteer Theresa Knight McFadden had just finished recording at WHCP Radio their first-ever segment of news for the blind from The Dorchester Banner.

The pair are reading news articles and advertisements to be broadcast on special radios to serve listeners with visual impairments. The shows are offered on a subchannel only, and can’t be heard on WHCP’s regular frequency, 101.5 FM.

The service is a supplement to a national news feed, “Washington Metropolitan Ear,” already featured on the station. But while that provides valuable information, there’s nothing local.

“We really want our local blind people to know what’s happening in Dorchester County,” Ms. Stanley said. “This provides a local voice.”
By law, there is no copywrite infringement when text is read on a subchannel for the blind.

WHCP has operated since July 4, 2015. It is the Mid-Shore’s only local noncommercial FM station, and is the area’s only all-volunteer community radio station.

“Our mission is to provide the area with diverse music, thoughtful information and public affairs programs of the highest quality,” the station’s website says. “We help listeners explore, celebrate and stay informed about the world and our community.”

Anyone interested in the shows can contact station Manager Mike Starling to apply for a free radio. “They don’t have to be totally blind, but have to be print impaired” with at least 20/200 vision, he said.

The Cambridge Lions Club helped get things started with the donation of 25 of the special sets. The small units operate as regular AM/FM radios, but also pick up subchannels, which standard sets do not.

So far, the readers have found that listeners are especially interested in a couple of topics found in The Banner. “People like food ads and obituaries,” Ms. McFadden said.

Still, she and Ms. Stanley are looking for feedback about which items from The Banner they should choose. They are also making plans to read books of local interest for broadcast.

The station is looking for referrals from sources such as doctors and nursing homes of folks who would qualify for one of the radios. Though the staff hasn’t determined when exactly the shows will be on the air, right now it’s Tuesday or Wednesday, with repeats throughout the week.

To learn more about the program, contact Mr. Starling at 202-744-7655. The station is in the 500 block of Race Street. Its signal reaches Cambridge and the surrounding area.

Dave Ryan is editor of the Dorchester Banner. He can be reached at dryan@newszap.com.

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