Thousands could benefit from ‘talking newspaper’

Maureen Liz Hugh and Jon in the studio
Maureen Liz Hugh and Jon in the studio

Thousands of blind and partially sighted people in Sussex could be more lonely than they need this new year, because many are simply unaware of the many talking newspaper services.

Jon Dean, Chairman of Horsham-based Roundabout Talking News, teamed up with listener Mick Duplock, to tell BBC Radio Sussex that only 150, out of an estimated audience of 2200, subscribed to its service. Each week, volunteers record around 30 minutes of highlights from the West Sussex County Times, and add a further 30 minute magazine-style discussion programme. They then send subscribers the one hour programme on a memory stick. A further 14 talking newspapers span the county.

Jon said: “With us, everything is free – the memory sticks, and a one-touch digital player which we install in people’s homes. The West Sussex County Times appears on a Thursday, and our listeners normally receive their news on the Saturday, so everything is topical.

“BBC Radio Sussex is perfect to reach our audiences, as they can’t read – but we would urge WSCT readers, who are friends and relatives, to contact us. Over 35 years, we have met many who have been reading the newspaper to their relatives, but needn’t have, because we can do it for them.

“Even if a visually impaired person has moved outside our area they can keep in touch with WSCT, and Horsham news, to stay abreast of what’s happening. Our service has no boundaries.”

Mick Duplock was diagnosed blind in 1979 with a hereditary eye condition RP (tunnel vision) and had to give up driving several years later. However, his loss of eyesight has not stopped him living life to the full, and he is keen to urge others to do the same. He says he may have lost his two eyes, but he still has his two “i”s - independence, and inclusion – and talking newspapers help with both. Mick feels passionately that many people are missing out. He has used Roundabout– and West Sussex County Times - to familiarise himself with the district and keep abreast of what’s happening; vitally, it enables him to join in conversations.

One of Mick’s passions is running, with 53 marathons, 15 ultra marathons, and 10 triathlons all under his belt, in locations from New York to South Africa. He said: “My loss of sight has opened new avenues – I was invited to run the New York marathon after going blind.” However, he added: “Some marathons have had unexpected challenges, eg charging elephants (and what they leave behind on the ground…)”

Article written by Alan Murray