Imagine not being able to read.
Whether it's because of an eye problem, fatigue or severe arthritis, the thought of not reading is something that drives volunteers at the Kansas University-Audio Reader Network.
``The thought of not being able to read is a devastating one,'' said Harry Talley, a retired KU teacher who's volunteered at Audio Reader for 10 years. ``Giving people the joy of reading when they're no longer able to is a wonderful thing.''
``I can't imagine not having books to read,'' said Anne Turner, a KU doctoral student and Audio Reader volunteer. ``So this is an opportunity to make up for some of what they've lost.''
About 300 people set aside a few hours every week to read material broadcast to about 7,000 Kansans who have physical conditions that prevent them from reading.
``I'm an avid reader,'' said Peggy Sampson, who has volunteered for more than three years. ``The ability to share that ... well, it's a priceless gift that sometimes we take for granted.''
Before they can be on the air, volunteers do an audition. Sampson remembers hers clearly.
``It was during the Gulf War,'' she said. ``I just remember reading the newspaper and having to say Pakistan all the time.''
Once through the auditions, some experience sweaty palms.
``It's a little nerve-wracking, especially the first time you read newspapers live on the air,'' Turner said. ``You realize you're going to make mistakes, sometimes it's funny, and you just live with it.''
Audio Reader transmits a radio broadcast to the listener, who must have a special receiver. The radios are about the size of an alarm clock and are loaned to subscribers for free.
Novels on the best-sellers list and newspapers are commonly read on the network, but subscribers can also submit special requests for materials.
Telephone Reader, a service of Audio Reader, allows subscribers to listen to newspapers over the phone, 24 hours a day. Callers are given a prompt and can immediately access the parts of the newspaper they want to hear.
``They're given an access code, and we instruct them on how to use the commands,'' said Janet Campbell, director. ``So they can just press 18 for obituaries or 19 for something else. It makes it a lot easier to be able to go right to what they want to hear.''
Another feature of Audio Reader is Audio Description. Volunteers attend live performances at the Lied Center or Lawrence Community Theatre and dictate what is happening on stage into a headset worn by visually impaired audience members.
``It's very challenging,'' Sampson said. ``You don't have a written script so I usually like to see the performance a few times before I do it.''