Volunteers provide a weekly round-up of local news stories in audio format, for people with visual impairments
A talking newspaper service for people in the Sidmouth area with visual impairments has been described as a ‘lifeline’ by one of its listeners.
The Sid Vale and East Devon Talking Newspaper is a weekly recording of local news stories and features from the newspapers in the area, including the Sidmouth and Ottery Herald. It now has around 60 regular listeners.
Sidmouth resident Heidi James said: “It’s a lifeline really. Without it I would feel very isolated, because I wouldn’t know what was going on in the community and the surrounding area. I’m very grateful for it.”
But earlier this year, the talking newspaper service was in need of a lifeline itself after some of its long-standing volunteers stepped down after more than 20 years. Fortunately, during what could have been the organisation’s final meeting, a new management committee was formed, under the chairmanship of Haydn Thomas. His wife Marilyn came on board as secretary, and Wendy Eagles as registrar. Mr Thomas, a retired deputy principal of the Exeter-based WESC Foundation for learners with visual impairment, embarked on a drive to publicise the service and recruit volunteers.
“Over the last few months we have put a lot of effort into promoting it in doctors’ surgeries, health centres and opticians, and we’ve increased by 14 listeners,” he said. “We now have about 50 volunteers – readers, editors, producers and people who carry out the registering. There are seven teams and each team is doing a recording every week.”
He said the talking newspaper includes local news items and ongoing issues such as the beach management plan and the sale of the district council HQ at Knowle. “We always do a what’s on feature, and we select the events that are suitable for people with visual impairment.”
The service also produces a quarterly magazine. The new committee carried out a survey of listeners and found that, while some would have liked additional features such as sports coverage, the talking newspaper is very popular. “The feedback has been totally positive,” said Mr Thomas. “People look forward to it. People are happy with the items that we choose, and the talking magazine is particularly highly thought of.”
Anyone wishing to know more about the service should contact:
PO Box 12 Sidmouth EX10 9DD
Tel: 07552 766382
Volunteers have stepped up to save the Sid Vale and East Devon Talking Newspaper, after fears were raised that it would have to close.
More than 40 people attended an extraordinary meeting, which was held about the future of the paper on Tuesday.
Acting chairman and co-ordinating editor Flo Townsend announced that she and two other colleagues, which included the paper’s treasurer and registrar, would be retiring at the end of March.
She said the organisation was also in desperate need of a chairman, which they had been coping without for around five years. They also need another editor.
The group was told that if no- one could step forward to fill the roles by the end of February, they would have to consider closing the paper down.
Flo said the number of people wanting the talking newspaper had dramatically fallen, especially in the last five years.
She added that 20 years ago they delivered around 250 to 300 recordings a week, but now it was more like 50 a week.
During the meeting, volunteers discussed whether there was still a need for the paper, which helps keep people with visual impairments up-to-date with the latest news and goings-on in their area.
Flo said: “Perhaps there isn’t the same need as there was.
“Technology is so good now and it has really enhanced what people with limited sight can do.
“But there is still a group of people who cannot access that technology and struggle with it and why should they have to?
“While they are still around there is a need for this paper.”
By the end of the meeting, four volunteers had stepped forward to fill four of five
Haydn and Marilyn Thomas stepped up to take on the rolls of chairman and co-ordinating editor, while Wendy Eagles agreed to be a co-registrar and Mike Newman agreed to be the new treasurer.
The talking newspaper is still in need of an editor and asked anyone who could spare some time to consider taking on the roll.