March 8, 2005
On February 16, Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher signed a contract that will give Kentuckians who are visually impaired or disabled greater access to local news and information through an electronic information system. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, more than 253,000 Kentuckians are unable or have difficulty seeing words in newspaper print.
Gov. Ernie Fletcher speaks at the NFB-NEWSLINE kickoff celebration at the Capitol Rotunda.
The contract with the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) is the result of House Bill 262, sponsored by Rep. Susan Westrom, and Senate Bill 56 sponsored by Senator Tom Buford, passed by the Kentucky General Assembly during the 2004 session.
Using a touch-tone telephone and toll-free number, visually impaired or disabled Kentuckians can access NFB-NEWSLINE each day to hear national and local news stories. Currently, Kentuckians can listen to the Lexington Herald-Leader, Louisville Courier-Journal and Kentucky Enquirer newspapers by telephone, as well as more than 150 other newspapers and three magazines. Two daily newspapers will be added each month to the service giving users access to 11 Kentucky newspapers within four months. Currently, 38 states are participating in the service.
“This free information system will give many Kentuckians access to their local and regional newspapers through an easy-to-use 24-hour service. NFB-NEWSLINE gives people who are disabled or visually impaired the news without delay so that everyone can be informed about what’s happening in their communities at the same time. When people have timely information they can better participate in discussions at their work, school, social functions and public meetings,” said Gov. Ernie Fletcher.
Pamela Roark-Glisson, left, coordinator of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) NEWSLINE of Kentucky, demonstrates the telephonic information service to Governor Ernie Fletcher and State Representative Susan Westrom.
“For many Kentuckians who have been unable to read news print due to visual impairments or other disabilities, NFB-NEWSLINE will now provide daily access to both local and state news. The inclusion through these media services will provide a new avenue for community connection,” said Department for Workforce Investment Commissioner Laura E. Owens.
Kentuckians who are eligible may subscribe to this free service by filling out an application from the NFB which is available online at http://www.nfb.org/newsline1.htm. Assistance also is available by contacting Pamela Glisson, NEWSLINE coordinator for Kentucky, at (859) 266-2807 in Lexington or toll-free at 1-877-266-2807. Subscribers then receive an identification number and security code that they use when they call NFB-NEWSLINE at 1-888-882-1629.
“NFB-NEWSLINE makes it possible for those of us who are blind to access news and information at the same time as our sighted peers,” said James Gashel, executive director of strategic initiatives for the National Federation of the Blind. “Most importantly, it gives us the freedom to choose which articles we want to read and when we want to read them. Staying informed and involved in our communities is what allows us to reach our full potential.”
Subscribers may choose from today’s newspaper, yesterday’s newspaper or the Sunday edition and then choose the section or article by using a standard touch-tone telephone. The menu allows the user to change the speed and voice quality, spell out words or search for a particular word or subject. In addition to newspapers, the NFB-NEWSLINE lets users select a local information channel that tells about other services for people who are visually impaired.
With 11 daily newspapers, Kentucky will have more daily newspapers available on NFB-NEWSLINE than any other surrounding state except for Ohio, which has 14. Missouri is next after Kentucky with six daily newspapers, Illinois and Tennessee each have three, West Virginia has two, and Indiana and Virginia each have one newspaper on NFB-NEWSLINE.
The contract between the Kentucky Education Cabinet and NFB is for one year. The cabinet’s Office for the Blind is responsible for managing the program in Kentucky. The following newspapers will be added during the next four months:
The Kentucky Post, Covington
The Paducah Sun, Paducah
Corbin Times-Tribune, Corbin
Kentucky New Era, Hopkinsville
Appalachian News-Express, Pikeville
Bowling Green Daily News, Bowling Green
Maysville Ledger Independent, Maysville
The Kentucky Education Cabinet coordinates learning programs from P-16 and manages and supports training and employment functions in the Department for Workforce Investment.