Hear all about it! Talking newspaper is 40 years old

Jean Wild in the studio
Jean Wild in the studio
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Jean Wild can see a pin on the floor or an aircraft in the sky but would struggle to read The Gazette.

Jean, like many older members of N-Vision, Blackpool Fylde and Wyre Society for the Blind, has age-related macular degeneration. It’s the leading cause of sight loss in the western world.

The Flower Power team

The Flower Power team

The condition causes loss or blurred vision in the central visual field, the area used for reading, watching telly or seeing people’s faces.

Jean can still see out of the ‘corner’ of her eye – but peripheral vision isn’t much use if you’re trying to pick up a pin or follow the vapour trail of an aircraft.

And it’s nigh impossible in flower arranging...

Jean, 80, who lives in south Fylde, is one of 320 listeners across the urban and rural sprawl of Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre, who get their news via the Talking Newspaper service.

It made a huge difference to some but not me. My prescription is a bit complicated

Now she’s part of a voluntary team planning to say it with flowers – to celebrate the Talking Newspaper’s 40th anniversary in June.

The Talking Newspaper plays a vital role in keeping blind and partially sighted subscribers up to date with articles taken from The Gazette, Lytham St Annes Express and Fleetwood Weekly News, as well as national newspapers, magazines, a sports round up, and items of interest from the charity and for those with reduced vision.

More than 150 volunteers make up the different teams or go it alone on rota reading the news at the charity’s digital recording studios at Bosworth Place, Squires Gate.

It all adds up to 11 hours of comprehensive coverage each week which is transferred to digital audio plugs. It is free although there is a small initial set up fee. Each listener is given a special digital speaker and sent a newly recorded DAP every week. Return postage is free.

Jean shows off one of the listening devices

Jean shows off one of the listening devices

The newspaper can even be downloaded from audio platform SoundCloud too.

A recent edition featured the charity itself after Low Vision worker Brian Casey,51, of Fleetwood, became the first man in Europe to test the new Sight headset – which enabled him to see his wife Bev for the very first time. The technological advance enabled some others with peripheral vision to read smaller print again – or see their loved ones faces. One client, Jeff Crozier, exclaimed with delight at seeing the yellow of daffodils again. Now the charity is trying to raise the money to fund the purchase of headsets for use at the centre. Brian is also hoping to win funding too.

Sadly the headset didn’t work for Jean. “It made a huge difference to some but not me. My prescription is a bit complicated.”

Jean was treasurer for eight years of Lytham Flower Club which folded after 55 years through lack of volunteers for committee roles.

Jean and other members stayed in touch. Now they are joining forces to help celebrate the Talking Newspaper’s 40th birthday through flower displays illustrating the range of the charity’s work. Each member has been given a theme.

Glenys Markland, former club chairman, overseeing the project, hopes to incorporate newspapers within the displays in an innovative way. The team includes Judi Heaton, Lynne Wilson, Anne Freeman, Margaret Darlington, and Jean herself.

Jean concludes: “I’m lucky that I can still see some flowers – and smell them, too. It’s a shame that some flowers are losing their perfume because they are forced to grow nonstop. My daughter sent me a beautiful bouquet and I could smell them, touch them and got a great deal of pleasure out of them.

“There’s nothing like saying it with flowers and it’s a lovely way to celebrate the Talking Newspaper’s anniversary.”

The charity itself hopes florists, garden centres, or other businesses, may donate funds or help in kind. Anyone willing to help the celebrations in any way should contact N-Vision community services manager Judith Harrison on (01253) 362696.

Barton Grange Garden Centre, at Brock, is also hosting a sight loss awareness day for N-Vision on Thursday, May 11, from 11am to 3pm.