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Niagara Frontier Radio Reading Service

July 6, 2022 - 6:03pm

Niagara Frontier Radio Reading Service, which serves blind and sight-impaired people throughout Western New York, including Genesee County, is seeking your help during a fundraiser next week.

Sponsored by Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres, the event, Give 716, will benefit charities including the reading service, a small nonprofit that is "deeply dependent on private contributions to exist," staff member Mark Robinson said.

"Please consider helping spread the word ... This is a low key, no-pressure occasion and is meant to be fun, informative and an easy way to support great charities," he said in a press release.

This event runs from 7:16 p.m. July 14 to 7:16 a.m. July 16, and it will go "live" when the event starts.

"There will be lots of prizes given away and all kinds of other surprises for participants," Robinson said. "Most importantly, you will be helping us so that we can help the blind and sight-impaired people throughout Western and Central New York. We are committed to being there for them and we have blind faith in every one of them."

For more information or to donate, check out Give 716

 

March 27, 2022 - 7:26pm

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Paul Jerge was born blind, but that hasn’t altered his perspective. 

Although he is visually impaired, the 69-year-old enjoys spending time with family, rooting for the Buffalo Bills and checking out the latest news from his local paper. He just sees in a different way, he says. 

“I follow sports, but I like to read the actual articles, and watch games on TV. I consider it reading … I always say ‘watch’ because that’s what everyone else is doing,” Jerge said to The Batavian. “I’m listening to something all day.  I like to support it. The volunteers give of their time and I really appreciate that.”

In the last few months, Jerge, a 1972 graduate of the State School for the Blind in Batavia, has added the Niagara Frontier Radio Reading Service to his repertoire as a way to enhance his pool of printed materials. He does everything on his smartphone, including connecting to the online reading service for some news, podcasts, magazine or book recitations.  

Niagara Frontier Radio Reading Service has “given voice to the printed word” since 1987. The nonprofit supplies 100 volunteer readers — a number expected to keep growing — for several areas throughout Western New York. Staff is planning to expand into the Southern Tier and small cities including Batavia, Mark Robinson said. 

A former executive director for other agencies in the Buffalo area, Robinson wanted t to slow down a bit, he said. He discovered the radio reading organization two months ago. 

“I really wanted to be part of this; it really is amazing,” he said. “We’ll have boots on the ground in Genesee County very soon.”

There are 150,000 potential listeners that are not able to access the service in this area, he said. So far, the service has covered western regions, including Erie County. There are 500 receivers (provided free of charge) out in those communities for listeners, while the online listeners are a majority of the service’s consumer base, he said. There are apps for smartphones, an online website and access through other devices, including Amazon Echo and Google Home. 

People just like Paul Jerge can access a world of printed materials with just a click or a voice command on a smart device. Within a 24-hour daily schedule, volunteers read the news, perhaps something from the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, a best-selling book, the Buffalo Bills Digest and from several other sources. One the most popular readings isn’t an article at all, Robinson said. 

“They like the Sunday shopping ads,” he said. “They could be disabled veterans, were born blind, lost their sight due to disease or injury. Anybody can access it; as of two years ago, anyone in the world can. We’re working on expanding the service into Rochester and the Genesee Valley.”

Although anyone can access and listen, volunteers are still vital to the program, he said. They are needed to read the news that is local to the area in addition to those John Grisham novels and the like. 

Robert Sikorski, a Buffalo lawyer, founded the organization in March 1987. Thanks to a federal law on the books allowing printed materials to be read for the purpose of enriching the lives of the blind or sight-impaired without copyright infringements, the reading service just surpassed its 35 year anniversary. It now boasts having tallied more than 250,000 hours of reading.

Many volunteers read without leaving their homes, or it can be done at the service’s home base studio in Cheektowaga. All that’s required, Robinson said, is to read out loud and a desire to help. Reading usually takes a couple of hours per week. The service is funded by grants and donations, and listeners have often become strong financial supporters as well, he said.

Robinson is seeking people interested in forming a committee in Genesee County. For more information about that or obtaining a free reading radio, becoming a volunteer and/or donor, go to: www.nfradioreading.org or call (716) 821-5555.

March 11, 2021 - 12:31pm

Press release:

To help keep the community aware of issues of interest to them and particularly to individuals with disabilities, the Western New York Independent Living Inc. (WNYIL) Family of Agencies now offers a new 30-minute public affairs radio program.

“Independent Perspective - In Depth,” utilizing the Niagara Frontier Radio Reading Service (NFRRS), will air these shows at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday mornings.  

Weekly guests will include leaders in the community from agencies serving people with disabilities, governmental agencies, as well as elected officials who will speak to issues important to people with disabilities in Western New York.

NFRRS’ programming is available to anyone online via their website, nfradioreading.org, by clicking the “Listen Live!” button, or by using Seros or Zeno apps on portable devices.

After the broadcast, a podcast will be available through the NFRRS website, as well as the WNYIL website and on several platforms including; Amazon Music, Audible, Google Podcasts, iHeart Podcasts, iTunes, Spotify, Sticher and TuneIn Radio.

The Western New York Independent Living Inc. Family of Agencies offer an expanding array of services to aid individuals with disabilities to take control of their own lives.

October 24, 2020 - 2:59pm

Press release:

When Royalty Free Radio Hour first envisioned “The Brain of Dr. Delgado,” the inaugural episode of their "In the Dark" series, it would have incorporated suggestions and participation from a live audience. Then came COVID-19.

The all-improvised original radio play was written by members of Defiant Monkey Improv, Karen Eichler and Andrew Spragge.

“The program came to life through a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts administered by the Arts Service Initiative of Western New York,” Eichler said, “but without a live audience we needed to improvise – which is of course what we’re great at!”

Spragge added, “A friend volunteers at the Niagara Frontier Radio Reading Service and recommended we talk with them. They had just added the internet to their broadcast platform, enabling listeners who are blind or have a print disability to access their programs online as well as on-air.”

“So not only do we get to share this suspense thriller with a wonderful audience, we get to take advantage of the Niagara Frontier Radio Reading Service’s technology to make the program available to thousands of people, wherever they may be!”

Michael Benzin, executive director of the Niagara Frontier Radio Reading Service, likes both the change of pace and the local impact of the partnership.

“Nearly all our programs feature newspapers, magazines, books and other printed publications being read by volunteers," Benzin said. "We know our listeners value this service, but the inclusion of a new radio play on our playlist will bring them something exciting and a little different.

"It also allows us to show off our new live streaming and podcasting capabilities and introduce new listeners to our service.”

The nonprofit Niagara Frontier Radio Reading Service has been serving people who are blind, have low vision, or have other print disabilities that make holding a book or turning a page difficult for more than 30 years.

Defiant Monkey Improv is a two-person improvisational group that creates on-the-spot theatre based on audience suggestions and participation. Performers Karen Eichler and Andrew Spragge are experienced improvisers, actors, professional development specialists, and teaching artists who love to have as much fun as possible. They are the authors of the book "The 5 Elements of Improv: How to Take Your Improv to the Next Level."

“The Brain of Dr. Delgado” will air live several times next week, including Halloween.

  • Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 26 & 27 at 8 a.m.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 28 at 3 p.m.
  • Thursday and Friday, Oct. 29 & 30 at 11 a.m.
  • Saturday, Oct. 31 at 7 p.m.

A livestream will be available through the agency’s website, www.nfradioreading.org, for listeners without the special reading radio.

For those that can’t wait or want to listen on their own schedule, a podcast of the show is available on-demandthrough both the website and many popular podcast players like Spotify, iTunes, and Stitcher. The service is also available on smart phones through the Seros or Zeno apps as well as through Amazon and Google smart speakers.

Biographies

Karen Eichler began performing improvisation with ComedySportz in 1997, graduated from The Second City Toronto and has performed on stages across the country. She has also performed with a script in shows such as Annie the Musical, and as Madame Thenardier in "Les Miserables" and has been a children’s show performer and storyteller since 2000. Eichler has a master’s degree in Education and has been a university professor since 1997, most recently teaching Public Speaking and College Writing.

Andrew Spragge began improvising in 2005 with ComedySportz, and has been acting and directing since 1982. He has been seen in various productions over the years including as Daddy Warbucks in "Annie," and Monsieur Thenardier in "Les Miserables." An accomplished actor, director, children’s show performer and corporate trainer, Spragge is also a graphic designer and worked as a middle school Science and Math teacher. Currently, he is a Mission Commander at the Challenger Learning Center in Lockport.

August 4, 2020 - 6:02pm

BUFFALO -- The Niagara Frontier Radio Reading Service is proud to announce that -- in addition to broadcasting over the air – its livestream and programs are now available online. The new service debuted July 31.

For people who can see, hold a book or newspaper, and turn a page, reading a printed publication is no big deal. But for thousands of people in Western New York, including Genesee County, who are blind, have low vision, or have other print disabilities, it is.

Over the last 30 years, hundreds of volunteers for the Niagara Frontier Radio Reading Service have been reading local and national newspapers, magazines, books and other publication over a private radio transmission that was available to listeners who were loaned a special radio receiver.

While the broad range of reading material shared by the radio station with its listeners every day was great, the station always struggled to serve more people since every listener needed one of the radios.

And while the Niagara Frontier Radio Reading Service will continue broadcasting over the air, adding an internet broadcast is a game-changer. Listeners will be able to access the programs they want, when they want them, wherever they are, on any internet-connected device – including smart phones and smart speakers, tablets, desktop and laptop computers.

And not only will listeners be able to catch the livestream just like they werelistening to the radio, they’ll be able to download and listen to many of the service’s most popular programs on their favorite podcast platform. Did they the miss the live reading of the morning paper? Pull down the podcast and catch up!

The new online functionality will also allow the organization to round out its reading list by adding new publications to its portfolio.

The Niagara Frontier Radio Reading Service has served tens of thousands of listeners since it was founded in 1987. But that number has always been limited by the number of radios it had available to loan. No longer.

There are an estimated 20,000 people in WNY who are blind or have low vision. There are another 40,000 who have a cognitive impairment or a physical disability that makes reading difficult or impossible. Although its unlikely that every one of them will tune in, many now can.

The new online Podcasts & Streaming Initiative was made possible through a seed grant from the James H. Cummings Foundation that helped open the door to a major grant from the Facebook Journalism Project. Support from the Christos Foundation, the East Hill Foundation, the Erie-Niagara Sunshine Exchange Club, and Ingram Micro rounded out the funding.

Links, feeds and more information for the expanded service can be found on the Niagara Frontier Radio Reading Service’s website at www.nfradioreading.org.

Among the station’s program schedule are live readings of the Buffalo News six days a week and USA Today five days a week. The station also airs the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Niagara Gazette, Dunkirk Observer, weekly newspapers like the local Bees and Business First, a variety of magazines, and books curated from the NY Times Best Seller list.

The broadcast is carried over a subcarrier frequency provided by Buffalo Toronto Public Media through WNED 94.5 FM.

Niagara Frontier Radio Reading is an affiliate of Western New York Independent Living, a community-based nonprofit organization that serves more than 7,000 people with disabilities annually through peer counseling, support for independent living, transitional services, advocacy and information & referrals.

The agency is primarily funded through philanthropic contributions and donations, grants, and special events. The organization currently receives no government funding. Major supporters include the Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo, Nascentia Health, WNY Independent Living, the WNY Lions Clubs, and the United Ways of WNY.

January 29, 2020 - 1:09pm

Press release:

The Facebook Journalism Project has awarded the Buffalo-based Niagara Frontier Radio Reading Service a grant of $24,996 to fund the agency’s new Podcasts & Streaming Initiative. The project is expected to launch within the next two months.

The Niagara Frontier Radio Reading Service (NFRRS) -- a full-time radio station that was founded to serve people who are blind, have low vision, or have other print-related disabilities -- is expanding its service capacity by introducing podcasts and live streaming to its listeners.

The reading service is available to Genesee County listeners, primarily in the western portion of the county, according to Executive Director Michael Benzin.

The broadcast is carried over a subcarrier frequency leased for one dollar a year from WNED 94.5 FM. The radio station’s signal is not available to the general public but can be heard on special radio receivers, which are loaned at no charge to NFRRS listeners. While radios will continue to be an important communication tool, the NFRRS expects to see a tenfold increase in the number of listeners served with the addition of the new program.

By adding the Internet to its broadcast portfolio, listeners will be able to listen to the programs they want, wherever they are, when they want to, using virtually any internet-connected device.

The Facebook Journalism Project (FJP) is working with publishers around the world to help strengthen communities by connecting people with meaningful journalism. Working with the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, the Community Network grants were awarded to organizations in support of projects aimed at building community and new paths to sustainability in local news.

In addition to the award, NFRRS will also be matched with industry leaders as well as former or current participants in the Facebook Journalism Project’s Local News Accelerator to receive mentorship and guidance on specific program outcomes.

The Podcasts & Streaming Initiative received seed funding from the James Cummings Foundation and is also being supported by the East Hill Foundation, the Christos Foundation, Ingram Micro, and WNY Independent Living.

The Niagara Frontier Radio Reading Service was founded to help people who are blind, have low vision, or have other print-related disabilities "read" printed materials. Newspapers, magazines, books and other print materials are read "live" on-air or recorded for later broadcast by more than 100 active volunteers. The station’s radio signal covers Buffalo, Western New York and Southern Ontario, Canada.

Among the station’s program schedule are live readings of the Buffalo News six days a week and USA Today five days a week. The station also airs The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Niagara Gazette, Jamestown Post Journal, Dunkirk Observer, weekly newspapers like the local Bee Group Newspapers and Business First, a variety of magazines, and books curated from The New York Times' Best Seller List.

The NFRRS is an affiliate of Western New York Independent Living, a community-based nonprofit organization that serves more than 7,000 people with disabilities annually through peer counseling, support for independent living, transitional services, advocacy and information and referrals. WNYIL has an office in Batavia on West Main Street.

The NFRRS is funded primarily through philanthropic contributions and donations, grants, and special events.

“Alexa, play Niagara Frontier Radio Reading.”

“Hey Google, what’s on Niagara Frontier Radio Reading at 9 a.m.?”

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