A Brief History of WRBH Radio for the Blind.

The concept of WRBH was conceived over ten years before it became a reality when Dr. Robert T. Mclean, a blind research professor in mathematics, and members of the Louisiana Council of the Blind began discussions during meetings about the need for a radio reading service for the blind in the New Orleans area.

Prior to these discussions, radio reading services,(the first one went on the air in 1969 in Minnesota), were broadcasted on the "sideband" frequencies which FM radio stations are authorized to transmit. These side band frequency broadcasts are used for the "Muzak" you may hear in a supermarket or elevator; they are also used by cellular/pager companies.

A person using a service on a sideband frequency must have a special receiver to get the broadcast. There is an obvious lack of convenience that is found with normal FM receivers. Dr. Mclean's research found that there were problems with this method of reading to the blind, which as much as they were an aid to the blind, left much to be desired. Dr. Mclean began to investigate the possibilities of getting a main-channel FM frequency to broadcast readings of current publications to the blind.

Radio for the Blind and Print Handicapped was incorporated in 1975, and Dr. Mclean worked out an arrangement with WWNO, 90 FM, to read from the Times Picayune-States Item in the mid-70's. While this was occurring, Dr. Mclean continued to pursue and eventually obtained an FM frequency - 88.3 FM.

The Lighthouse for the Blind worked out an arrangement with Radio for the Blind to make space available in one of the buildings on its campus to house the radio station. A variety of grants, including facilities planning money from the State of Louisiana, was obtained to develop the site. On September 12, 1982, WRBH signed on the air, and has been broadcasting ever since.

Other radio reading services and organizations for the blind nationwide have been contacting WRBH to seek advice in establishing similar FM radio reading services. In Memphis, WYPL made the leap from side-band to FM in the Spring of 1991, after consultations with WRBH.

WRBH developed and moved to its own facility at 3606 Magazine Street in New Orleans on December 27, 1991. In this facility, the radio station has been able to expand its services to the blind by including Braille Workshops, Support Group sessions, hosting civic, business and social organizations of the blind, and setting up expositions of products and techniques used by the blind in the workplace and at home.

Furthermore, WRBH broadcasts employment opportunities for people with disabilities, public service information of specific interest to people with disabilities, interviews with individuals in the field of blindness and other disabilities, remote broadcasts of seminars and workshops giving information valuable to people with disabilities, and even remote broadcasts of people with disabilities enjoying recreational activities such as hunting! WRBH has published a Resource Brochure for individuals looking for a variety of resources to deal and cope with vision loss, and a guide through the system in which to get help.

Radio for the Blind has been the recipient of numerous awards and citations, including being named the 257th Point of Light by President George Bush in 1990, as well as media awards issued by the Governor of Louisiana, to name a few.


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