KU plans to cut funding to its Audio-Reader program by 2022

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The University of Kansas recently announced plans to defund its Audio-Reader program in the coming years.

The program, which reads to the blind, has been a fixture of the Northeast Kansas community for nearly 50 years.

The cuts will impact those relying on it the most according the Kimberly Morrow, who has been blind since birth.

Morrow, like other visually impaired people in the area, gets the latest local news and information from Audio-Reader. Before the program she used to ask people to read the newspaper for her, and often was told nothing had happened that day.

"Since I have begun reading the newspaper on Audio-Reader's telephone reader I’ve read it from cover to cover every day and I will tell you I have never had a day when there is nothing in the newspaper, there is always something,” Morrow said.

Besides news and grocery ads, Audio-Reader's textbook feature allowed her to earn her PhD.

"It's given me a degree of independence I wouldn't have otherwise just the ability to know what's going on at the same level as my sighted counterparts.” Morrow said.

Every day Audio-Reader helps approximately 7,000 to 10,000 people who are visually impaired, or unable to read. But planned budget cuts at KU put the program in jeopardy. The University will still pay for the building, utilities and maintenance, but will eliminate all other funding by 2022.

“I think that the really frustrating thing is having to ask for help on something that most people just absolutely take for granted." Morrow said.

Audio-Reader is asking for the community's help raising the approximately $330,000 annually that will be cut.

Development Director Beth Mckenzie says volunteers and staff are trying hard to maintain the broadcast’s quality, variety and the instant information with less funding, so listeners don't have to wait several days to get the news or the information that matters to them.

And It affects more than just listeners, there are more than 450 volunteers like Randy Austin who worry what will happen next.

“We are not quite sure exactly how that's going to impact us but it is going to impact us severely,” Austin said. “We are hoping to increase awareness of Audio-Reader or increase awareness of word situation."

One of the main goals of the program throughout the funding cut is to keep the service free for listeners, because without the program we wouldn't have people like Dr. Kimberly Morrow.

“[I prefer being called that]. It isn't to sound like I’m pompous, it’s that I want people to know what people who are blind are capable of doing.” Morrow said.

You can download Audio-Reader on the Apple or Google Play App Store, you can also request a free closed-circuit radio tuned into the program.

If you’d like to help you can donate to Audio-Reader by going to www.reader.ku.edu and clicking the button to donate.