This month’s Radio News is much more slim and trim than usual. During the uncertain and rapidly-changing COVID-19 pandemic, Radio Talking Book has made temporary changes in order to continue broadcasting.
Gov. Tim Walz issued a stay-at-home order in late March to protect the safety of Minnesotans and ensure that those on the frontlines get necessary equipment and supplies. This order required a shutdown of the SSB Communication Center in St. Paul, putting RTB on temporary hold.
Beginning March 27, RTB began broadcasting the signal from the University of Kansas Audio-Reader Network. Audio-Reader is a reading and information service for blind, visually impaired, and print-disabled individuals, and broadcasts daily newspapers, magazines, and books 24 hours a day. This interim change has met a positive response. To learn more about this service, go to www.reader.ku.edu.
RTB resumed newspaper broadcasts on April 16. Michael LaFleur again presents state and local news 9-11 a.m. weekdays, with Edy Elliott presenting on Saturdays and Sundays. Brad Bronk presents the New York Times 5-6 p.m. weekdays.
The intent is for regular broadcasting to return as soon as possible. Once the Communication Center reopens, Radio Talking Book will begin regular programming again as soon as possible. Regular programs will return and for those who were following books underway before the shutdown began, be aware that each book will start again from page one. That will give listeners a chance to get caught up or jump in at the beginning.
Don’t hesitate to contact State Services for the Blind (SSB) at 651-539-2300 or 1-800-652- 9000) or by email, [email protected], for more information.
SSB services during COVID-19
Here’s an overview of what to expect from SSB during the stay-at-home period:
- Staff will continue to assist customers by phone, email and through other virtual channels.
- Custom transcription of print materials into audio and e-text is suspended for now.
- Braille production will continue, although though there may be delays in getting materials to customers.
- SSB’s general email will be checked regularly, at [email protected]
- SSB’s main number, 651-539-2300, will be checked daily. Staff will respond within two days.
New listening options
A new RTB app is now available for both iOS and Android devices. The app can be found in the Apple app store for iOS, and the Google Play store for Android. Both apps will enable listener to listen to our live stream, or archived programming from the past week.
When searching in either store make sure to select MN RTB, as other radio reading services have made apps available. In the Apple store use the terms Radio Talking Book or RTB without the quotes; in the Google Play store, search for Radio Talking Book.
An RTB “skill” is also now available on Amazon smart speakers. To begin say, Alexa, enable Radio Talking Book. Alexa will ask if the user wants to play RTB, hear the schedule, or find out what is now playing. Respond by saying, Alexa, play Radio Talking Book.
Next, Alexa will ask if the user if he/she/they are blind or print-impaired. This is so those eligible for the service can be sure to gain access. Those eligible need to say, yes, so that Alexa will play the RTB live stream.
Current schedule information cannot be accessed because regular programming isn’t being aired at this time.
Listen to RTB’s live or archived programs online at www.mnssb.org/rtb. Call or email to get a password for the site. The password requirement will be removed in the near future.
The NFB-NEWSLINE service will continue. The service provides access to more than 500 magazines and newspapers, plus information on COVID-19 in the Breaking News section. To learn more about NFB-NEWSLINE visit www. nfb.org/programs-services/nfb-newsline. Call or email for more information.
Please return audio cartridges
Anyone who has been receiving the Radio News on audio cartridges, and still has some from previous months, is asked to mail those back to SSB.