Fylde coast talking newspapers scheme brings 'Life' to the visually impaired

PUBLISHED: 18:44 31 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:38 20 February 2013

In the recording studio are (clockwise from the left) Doreen Parker, Mary Chamberlain, Sheila Roberts, Jean Fisher, Mike Maunder, Pat Allison and Hilary Moss

In the recording studio are (clockwise from the left) Doreen Parker, Mary Chamberlain, Sheila Roberts, Jean Fisher, Mike Maunder, Pat Allison and Hilary Moss

Lancashire's favourite county magazine is read by tens of thousands every month and listened to by hundreds of others, as Paul Mackenzie reports

Six women on the Fylde coast read the features in Lancashire Life to almost 1,000 people every month.

They are part of the talking newspapers scheme which enables blind and visually impaired people to enjoy the magazine.

The recordings they make are posted out to almost 900 blind and partially-sighted people in Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre as well as some further afield around Lancashire and some expats in Spain who want to keep up to date with events in their old home county.

Every month Doreen Parker, Hilary Moss, Jean Fisher, Sheila Roberts, Pat Allison and Mary Chamberlain choose a number of stories and features from the UKs biggest selling magazine to record for their hundreds of clients.

The service, which is based at the Princess Alexandra Home for the Blind, is currently making the switch from cassettes to digital technology but
used to send out about 180,000 tapes a year. Thats enough tape to stretch twice round the world and the pile of CDs would be higher than Blackpool Tower, said Mike Maunder who manages the scheme.

The new digital technology will mean we have so much more scope to
record more stories. On tape they only had 60 minutes but we can now take up to 40 hours of recording.

The six women whose voices take Lancashire Life into homes along the
Fylde coast are just some of more than 100 volunteers who read local and
national newspapers and a selection of magazines onto tape.

And Kevin Winkley, the services chief executive, said: By far the most
popular magazine we have requests for is Lancashire Life.

The volunteers come in during the day or after theyve been at work and
read stories from newspapers and magazines. They tend to read the main news stories from the papers and stories our clients will be interested in from the magazines.We also provide useful information such as tide times and sun rise and sun set times, the sort of information people might need.

Our readers can be the only visitors some of these people get. They often say how having those voices on tape is like having friends round.

One of our readers was approached in a shop by a blind person who recognised her voice. The readers become celebrities among the clients.

The Princess Alexandra Home, in South Shore, also gives practical and emotional help and support to more than 2,500 blind and partially sighted people. The home has six independent living flats and 40 beds which can be used by permanent residents, regular visitors, or people in need of respite care.

Princess Alexandra originally opened the home in 1962 and she came back 40 years later to perform the ceremony again after a major re-building project.

Kevin added: We attempt to maintain peoples independence and to help them to live independently with technology like talking microwaves and other devices that are on the market. There are also regular social activities that give people a chance to meet others and to talk about their experiences

The charity costs 300,000 a year to operate and is entirely dependent on donations. To volunteer, or help the Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre Talking Newspaper service with sponsorship or donations, contact 01253 362692.

For information about other talking newspaper services go to www.tnauk.org.uk

To hear the recordings, look out for articles on the Lancashire Life website marked (with audio)

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