Talking newspapers help bridge gap for visually impaired

To go with Talking Newspaper feature
To go with Talking Newspaper feature

Greta Davies fumbles with the newspaper sheets, not able to really see what she is doing.

The 78-year-old is almost totally blind and hasn’t been able to read anything in print for as long as she can remember.

The retired teacher from Marlpool used to have 20/20 vision when she was a youngster, but it deteriorated slowly after she found out she was diabetic.

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of vision loss among people with diabetes, and a leading cause of blindness among working-age adults.

Greta relied heavily on the support of husband Ken to help her get from day-to-day and carry out household chores.

But Ken sadly died in 2014, leaving Greta not only heartbroken but also in need of a helping hand.

She said: “When Ken passed I knew I would struggle with how to get from each day to the next.

“I’m not totally blind, I can see slight colours and blurry outlines but there is no focus. I could strain and strain but would never be able to read anything in print, my eyes just don’t work like that anymore.

“But it wasn’t just practical things I found harder. Ken used to read to me all the time, stories, newspapers, everything.

“It used to be our time together, with no TV or phones ringing – I used to love sitting back and just listening to his relaxing voice.

“It is how I used to relax, but also how I would know about the comings and goings around Derbyshire – I really missed it.”
Her family rallied around her to which she was grateful, but there was one particular person who she now relies on and that is Sally Dalton.

Sally is a volunteer from the Amber Valley branch of the Talking Newspaper Association.

The association provides audio cassette tapes for blind and partially sighted people across the borough.

Sally records herself reading newspapers and magazines which are then delivered to Greta, so she can still listen to all her local news. Titles include the Belper News, Derbyshire Life, Gardening Answers, Ripley & Heanor News and Woman & Home.

The Talking News Federation is an umbrella organisation that represents the interests of local talking newspapers in the UK – such as Amber Valley. It was formed specifically to provide information, guidance and help to talking newspaper branches and to provide a comprehensive local news service to blind and partially-sighted people.

In January 1970, the first talking newspaper was formed in Aberystwyth, and recordings sent out to listeners in Cardiganshire. In those early days no-one imagined that more than 40 years later, there would be over 500 groups across the UK and more than 100,000 listeners – one of which is Greta.

Sally came across the Amber Valley branch online and decided she wanted to give it a go.

She said: “Being able to see the printed word is something a lot of us take for granted. Blind and partially sighted people don’t have this opportunity – but we can help.

“I had some time on my hands and couldn’t think of a better way to use it. Being visually impaired can be so isolating and we should all do anything we can to help bridge that gap.

“It is weird to think that someone sits and listens to my voice telling them things, I don’t like hearing my own voice, but if it helps them then it’s great.

“It is so rewarding to know that I have helped Greta, and been able to help her both practically, but also to help her keep alive the tradition she shared with her husband.”

For more information about the service or how to volunteer, visit www.tnf.org.uk, call either 01793 497555 or 01773 608954.