Monday, July 21, 2008

Insight Radio begins nationwide broadcast for blind people in UK

From The Sunday Herald in Glasgow, Scotland:

Insight Radio, Europe's first station for the blind, is planning to broadcast nationwide on DAB digital radio and the BBC's new Freesat service.

The announcement coincides with the station's first anniversary this month. Currently the station, based in Partick, Glasgow, is available only over the Internet, on digital television and on FM in the Glasgow area. It hit the headlines recently when one of its presenters, Mikey Hughes, became the first blind person to appear on Big Brother.

Insight Radio's first year has been a success: it won a silver in the Sony awards, regarded as the Oscars of the radio world, last October. Staff also made a pioneering visit to Canada this month, where they transmitted three hours of live broadcasts back to Scotland every day.

Ross Macfadyen, station manager, said: "The whole point of Insight Radio is to stop sidelining people with sight loss. Anyone can enjoy an easy-listening music show, an interview with a famous personality or a talking book or play. The beauty of radio is that it's all about what comes out of the speaker, so the quality of a station is judged by that."

Bankrolled by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), Insight is a non-commercial station dedicated to giving blind and visually impaired people news and information specific to their lives. Some 60% of the station's staff are visually impaired.

The expansion plans also include the opening of new studios in Edinburgh, London, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle, Cardiff and Belfast. They will serve as training centres, and eventually aim to offer accredited courses to help visually impaired people into employment.

Macfadyen added: "It's important that people come away with a qualification that will assist them in getting full-time employment. Employers also need to be educated on how easy it is to employ a blind or partially sighted person.

"There are all sorts of additional assistance facilities that are available to blind and partially sighted people, which makes employing somebody very straightforward."

Simon Pauley, 44, is a presenter and producer in the Glasgow studio who has benefited from the training programme. He first volunteered with an earlier, Internet-only incarnation of the RNIB's station after he was diagnosed with Stargardt's macular degeneration, an inherited condition that causes significant
loss of sight.

The condition became too debilitating for Pauley to continue his previous job. Even though he had no radio experience, he was taken on and given training, and is now a full-time employee.

He said: "This station has really helped me. After I was diagnosed, I entered a really dark part of my life, where I had to give up my business and didn't know what I was going to do with rest of my life. I class this as my second life: I spent my first life in business, now I'm in my second life.

"I went through a period where nothing meant anything. I used to love life, love music, love everything and that just stopped. Getting involved with Insight changed that, and I feel very fortunate to be where I am at the age I am."