THE HUMAN SIDE OF OPTOMETRY
A radio reading program is helping low vision patients stay connected to the world.
Ann Kurzer, O.D., Dayton, Ohio
Four and-a-half years ago, an article appeared in the local newspaper asking individuals to donate one hour per week to participate in the Goodwill Easter Seals Miami Valley (GESMV) (formerly “WORDS”) Radio Reading Service program. The program is comprised of volunteers who read to the visually and physically impaired over the radio.
As an optometrist for roughly 20 years, I had seen more than my fair share of low vision patients and, in particular, the impact vision loss has on their quality of life. As a result, the article prompted me to seek involvement in the program.
Dr. Kurzer in the studio preparing to start her radio show.
The Radio Reading Service program is comprised of more than 75 volunteers, who read local, state and national daily and weekly newspapers, various periodicals, local circulars and books to low-vision, blind, and/or physically challenged patients in nine counties surrounding the Dayton, Ohio area. GESMV has its own studio and equipment. The airwaves are donated by several public radio stations that have sub-carrier frequency channels. These channels enable the broadcast of more than 56 programs every week and command airtime 23 hours, 365 days a year.
Because the program broadcasts on a sub-carrier frequency, those who wish to hear it must use a special radio that GESMV provides free. To obtain the radio, the interested party must submit an application that inquires about the need (e.g. disability) for the device. Once the application is approved, GESMV makes arrangements with the individual to receive the radio. Many times, the radios are mailed.
I contacted the original WORDS program director about volunteering, and he said he needed someone to read Newsweek magazine once a week.
“Great! When can I get started?” I asked eagerly.
“You need to audition first,” the program director replied.
“I have to audition to be a volunteer?” I asked, confused.
“Yes,” he said. “We have to make sure you have a good voice for radio.”
I passed the audition. Four years later, I am still running my weekly show, “This Week in Newsweek.” I start my show by introducing myself and then reading the magazine's cover story. In the remaining time, I read whatever other articles I feel will interest my listeners.
I became an optometrist to help people enhance their vision, and in turn, enhance their quality of life. Unfortunately, the existence of sight-stealing conditions, such as age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma, often tie my hands, in terms of enabling these patients to achieve the vision they desire. Through my participation in the Radio Reading Service program, however, I can still provide my patients, among other low vision patients, with a means of enhancing their quality of life. In fact, many of my patients now have these radios and comment frequently how much they value being able to stay connected to their community and the world.
An additional unexpected perk from this experience: I have amassed several new patients as a result of my program and referrals from both my fellow program volunteers and the GESMV workers. OM
DO YOU HAVE A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE? DISCUSS YOUR STORY WITH JENNIFER KIRBY, SENIOR ASSOCIATE EDITOR OF OPTOMETRIC MANAGEMENT, AT (215) 628-6595, OR JEN.KIRBY@WOLTERSKLUWER.COM. OMOFFERS AN HONORARIUM FOR PUBLISHED SUBMISSIONS.
Optometric Management, Issue: January 2011