I spent an interesting afternoon last week at the Oklahoma Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped after I was invited to appear on one of its Internet radio programs.
That program, a part of the Oklahoma’s Talking Information Service, or OTIS, is operated by its enthusiastic Program Coordinator Jay Doudna, pictured right, who handles the mixing board and puts together weekly radio shows of various newspaper and magazine readings for the visually impaired and anyone else who wants to listen.
I read a recent commentary I published in the Oklahoma Gazette, which you can find here under listings for Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Jim Henry, a board member of Oklahomans for Special Library Services, read other articles from the Gazette and set me up to read my commentary as Doudna worked the board.
The Gazette is just one of several state publications OTIS provides during the week for its listeners. It also airs readings from newspapers in Lawton, Stillwater, Muskogee and Enid, along with Urban Tulsa Weekly. The point, according to Doudna, is to provide content that serves as wide a geographical location as possible in Oklahoma. The readings are carried at different times during the week so listeners have plenty of opportunities to catch a particular program.
OTIS provides a crucial service for the state’s blind and visually-impaired residents and other disabled persons who may have a difficult time reading because of various conditions. According to information on the site of the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services, as of 2011 there were 109,833 Oklahomans with vision problems. Not all of those people are unable to read by sight, of course, but it’s still a sizable amount. When you include people who have physical challenges when it comes to reading, it becomes clear how important OTIS is to the state and to those who tune in for the news.
Internet technology, of course, has helped create radio stations, such as OTIS, but it still takes a lot of work reading the material on a weekly basis, editing the recordings and getting them on the air.
Doudna says he’s always interested in expanding the content and reach of the programs, and he would like to include more guest readers like myself in the weekly programs. This can add a different voice to a particular program and add variety to the readings.
I also took a tour of the library, which contains a large collection of reading material, including braille, for the visually impaired and others who have problems reading by sight. Doudna showed me the latest digital reader, which allows people to insert a hard plastic card into a device and listen to books. As he noted, new computer technology, such as screen readers, has allowed the visually impaired and other people better access to written material.
Doudna has put together an important and growing source of information in the library’s studio at the state Capitol complex, bringing the news to people who might otherwise be isolated. It’s an impressive operation.
(You can reach Doudna at 522-0520 in the Oklahoma City area or toll free at 800-523-0288. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.)