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Non-Profit Brings Printed Word to the Visually Impaired (Video)

The Metropolitan Washington Ear is celebrating 40 years of bringing the written word to the visually impaired in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

MyMCMedia’s Valerie Bonk has the story of how the Silver Spring-based non-profit and its volunteers are working to support the blind community.

Freddie Peaco went completely blind from Glaucoma when she was 13-years-old. But she wasn’t going to let that stop her from keeping up with what was going on around her.

“Even today with all of the technology you’ll always have that group of people who will not be able to go online and read the newspaper, who won’t have someone to read it to them,” said Freddie Peaco, president of The Metropolitan Washington Ear.

That’s where The Metropolitan Washington Ear comes in.

The non-profit organization brings free radio and dial-in services to those who are visually impaired.

“People depend on this for their everyday living and it gives them a self-sufficiency and an independence that you just can’t calculate the value of that,” said Neely Oplinger, executive director of The Metropolitan Washington Ear.

The service has more than 5,000 listeners served by about 400 volunteers who sit in special radio booths in Silver Spring to read the news on the air.

“My mother was a subscriber and she had lost her sight from diabetes,” said Becky Meadows, a volunteer at The Metropolitan Washington Ear. “I thought wow this is perfect, so that’s how I signed up and I’ve been doing it ever since and I love it.”

Everyday, starting early in the morning, volunteers read The Washington Post, USA Today and selections of other newspapers and magazines into the computer for listeners to access 24 hours a day from their phones, online or on radios given to them for free.

“I ran into a woman at the post office a little while ago obviously blind with an aide and I walked over to her and I said, ‘have you ever heard of the Washington Ear?’ And she said oh yeah I thought your voice sounded familiar,” said Judith Hoenig, a volunteer at The Metropolitan Washington Ear. “I said, ‘ah ha, a listener!’ And I can’t tell you how good that made me feel.”

Former Montgomery County Public School teacher Bob Gallagher heard about the program through one of his students. Now retired, he reads The Washington Post live on the radio every Friday morning.

“It feels very fulfilling because you know you’re communicating with a community member and helping them to have a full engagement in the society that we sighted people take for granted,” Gallagher said.

You can find more information about the Washington Metropolitan Ear online here.

Valerie Bonk

About Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk is a multimedia reporter and community engagement specialist with Montgomery Community Media (MCM).


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