LAWRENCE — On Oct. 11, 1971, Audio-Reader’s first broadcast went on the air from the University of Kansas. For the next 50 years, Audio-Reader has provided access to information and the arts to anyone who has difficulty reading standard printed materials due to vision loss, physical or learning disability, mobility challenges and age.
Hundreds of Audio-Reader volunteers read thousands of publications, including local and regional newspapers, books, magazines and special-interest materials to individuals who are blind, visually impaired or print-disabled across Kansas, western Missouri and beyond. Since its inception, Audio-Reader has made its content available through closed-circuit radios, smart speakers, smartphone apps, over the phone and online. Its multifaceted delivery options came at a crucial time for listeners.
“The year 2020 was one of Audio-Reader's busiest years as local information was essential, from knowing community COVID risk levels and regulations to knowing when and how to access health care and get groceries,” said Dan Skinner, director of Audio-Reader and Kansas Public Radio. “Additionally, Audio-Reader experienced a surge in listeners seeking the companionship of volunteers reading the daily broadcast. Isolation and loneliness were particularly challenging for many listeners throughout the pandemic and found Audio-Reader to be a trusted voice available 24/7.”
To honor Audio-Reader’s legacy, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly proclaimed the week of Oct. 11 to be “Audio-Reader Week.” Audio-Reader will kick off its 50th anniversary with an open house from 10 a.m. to noon Monday, Oct. 11, in the Audio-Reader parking lot, 1120 W 11th St. Coffee, doughnuts, prizes and Audio-Reader swag will be available. Special interviews will be conducted with listeners and supporters to be broadcast live on Audio-Reader's airwaves.
During the open house, tickets can be purchased for Audio-Reader's 50th Anniversary Celebration, which will take place from 7 to 10 p.m. Nov. 5 at Abe & Jake’s Landing. This celebration will feature guest speakers, live music, hors d’oeuvres from Maceli’s catering and a silent auction featuring a specially curated selection of vinyl records and vintage audio equipment. Details and online registration can be found at reader.ku.edu/audioreader50years.