Radio Eye for Visually Impaired

Give a Listen

Writer / Julie Engelhardt

Thumbing through a magazine, newspaper or book provides hours of reading enjoyment for many, yet there are those who are not able to read the printed word because of blindness or other factors affecting sight. That’s where programs such as Kentucky’s Radio Eye come to the forefront.

Radio Eye is a radio reading service that began in Lexington more than 33 years ago. They broadcast the reading of current news, public service and general interest articles to people who are blind and print-disabled.

This idea was the brainchild of Al Crabb, a professor at the University of Kentucky. When he would go to Tennessee to visit his dad, who was blind, he took notice of his father listening to people reading newspaper articles and other publications. He began to wonder if Kentuckians could also benefit from this type of programming.

“In the beginning it was on a closed-network radio system,” says Lucy Stone, executive director for Radio Eye. “WUKY was our first original partner, and we broadcast off subcarriers. You couldn’t pick us up in your car. You needed to have a specialty radio because it’s tuned to that specific channel.”

Technological advances have enabled Radio Eye to switch from closed-network radios to an internet system. “Our listeners now use an internet radio that still looks like a radio but with the clarity of listening online,” Stone explains.

Crabb took the idea to the university, where he received their support in starting the service. The process was set in motion, but to accomplish this project he needed to find volunteers interested in reading and recording news articles and books. Crabb put out an all-call through the Herald-Leader newspaper in Lexington. He began to recruit university professors, college kids and interns.

Radio Eye currently has 200 volunteers who not only read, but also do outreach such as speaking to the public and seeking donations.

According to Stone, Crabb put his potential volunteers through a rigorous reading audition.

“He had them read 100 words, plus several phrases and different articles,” she says. “Crabb would go through and correct the people, the way they pronounced words and their cadence. He was quite the stickler as he wanted to make sure that they were putting out quality programming. Back then it was difficult trying to correct reading errors. Nowadays, if there’s a mistake, we can fix it very, very quickly.”

During the past three decades, the Radio Eye team has made great strides in reaching out to other portions of the state to offer services. Stone says they currently have about 10,000 listeners across Kentucky. After initially establishing the program in the mid-state area, the program began to spread to other cities and counties in the commonwealth.

“Louisville was our next outreach area,” she says. “Then in 2014 we expanded out to eastern Kentucky, which took us all the way down to Pikeville, and a few years after that we expanded into the Morehead area. During the pandemic we launched our final stream, which took us to Paducah. Even in the middle of a global shutdown we became a statewide service, and we’re incredibly proud of that.”

The process to become a Radio Eye volunteer has changed vastly over the years, according to Stone.

“One of the first things we’re going to ask is, ‘What kind of a reader do you want to be? Do you want to be an in-person reader or a remote reader?’” she says.

Stone explains that people can either come into their studios to record using their software, or they can do it from their home or office.

“In order to do it at home, you have to be confident in your ability with technology,” she says. “I’ve streamlined it so that it is incredibly easy. That’s something of which I’m very proud. You don’t need to have a recording studio at home. Technology has changed so much that everything is really built in. We have a lot of people who record in their closets.”

Radio Eye currently has 200 volunteers who not only read, but also do outreach such as speaking to the public and seeking donations.

Louisville resident Chris Clements actively seeks out new volunteers to be readers or to perform other tasks such as community outreach. Clements is a board member for Radio Eye, a volunteer reader, and employed as the coordinator for the Retired Senior Volunteers Program through AmeriCorps.

“I’ve been involved with Radio Eye for about six years,” he says. “My involvement began when I was in my current job for about one year or so, and I received an inquiry from Radio Eye. While they have their larger headquarters in Lexington, they do have a satellite office in Louisville, and they had just opened their studios. They wanted to build their base and their exposure, so they approached me to see if I could help them recruit some older volunteers in Louisville to do the recording sessions.”

Clements was on board to help them find local volunteers. He says they received interest from six volunteers. Before COVID-19 hit, their numbers were up to 10 or 12 volunteers who were actively doing recording sessions, but because of the pandemic, that number scaled back to about three or four. Today, 85 to 95% of the local volunteers are from Jefferson County, but they also have volunteers from southern Indiana, Oldham County and Bardstown. As of this writing, the Louisville studio is closed until they hire a new office manager. Those interested in volunteering are encouraged to apply, as recording from home is still an option.

Alice Dehner, who lives in Lexington, is the secretary of the Radio Eye board of directors. She became involved when a dear friend with macular degeneration died. “She loved being read to, and volunteering with Radio Eye allowed me to read to a larger number of those unable to comfortably do so on their own,” she explains. “After many years of volunteering, I was asked to join the board.”

She says that she read the Herald-Leader for about four years in the studio with two others. When COVID-19 struck, she and her husband both continued to read the Thursday and Saturday morning paper, but remotely from their home. She also read magazine articles, local county newspapers, magazine articles and books. She and friends also taped plays through their group, The Signal Theater, for airing during the holidays.

In Louisville, other programs include recordings of the Oldham Era and Spencer Magnet, Sentinel News, Kentucky Standard, LEO Magazine, News and Tribune, Springfield Sun, and Henry County News.

Specialty programming for all areas includes “Children’s Hour”, “Sports News”, “American Past”, “The Pet Corner” and more.

There are several ways to listen to Radio Eye. They include streaming on; Alexa Skill: “Radio Eye Live” via Victor Reader Stream; NFB Newsline (to register, call 866-504-7300; toll-free telephone broadcast, 800-238-5193, ext. 2 for Louisville, or 518-906-1519.

If you’d like more information about Radio Eye, go to, or call 859-422-6390 or 800-238-5193, ext. 0.

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