The Mission and Purpose of WRBH 88.3 FM

WRBH, Radio for the Blind and Print Handicapped, named the 257th Point of Light by President George Bush in 1990, was incorporated in 1975, with the main objective of providing to the blind and visually impaired the current publications in the form of newspapers, books and magazines. The result is that these citizens, as well as many others who are unable to obtain information from print because of physical handicaps such as paralysis, or people confined to hospitals or nursing homes, or individuals unable to read because of illiteracy, are now able to be as immediately informed and entertained as their sighted, able bodied, literate peers.

As WRBH progressed and became well established, interfacing with various disability groups in the Greater New Orleans area revealed that there has been a big gap in disseminating information other than what can be found in print publications that can be considered pertinent to the well being of this community. That would include information on health fairs; free health screening; publications in large print, braille or cassette; job training seminars; classes and programs for the disabled; adjustment to blindness tips; bulletins from the federal, state and local government of special interest to the disabled and much more. WRBH takes the initiative to gather the information from many different sources, and broadcast this information via carted announcements that are interspersed throughout our 24 hour broadcast day. Additionally, the information is read by our volunteer broadcasters as part of programs on a regular basis. Many disabled individuals and groups have commended WRBH on this special public information component.

Along the same lines, WRBH instituted a Public Affairs program that airs in great detail news, information and interviews concerning disability issues. There has been extensive coverage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as programs to guide disabled people to obtaining employment, cooking and kitchen techniques for the blind, information programs concerning eye diseases provided by leading ophthalmologists, Internal Revenue guidelines and tax breaks for the disabled and much more. There is no such program on the radio in Louisiana other than on WRBH.

Combining these two very essential activities provided by WRBH has been one of the main activities of Radio for the Blind, as we've become more of a communications center for the blind, as well as other disabilities concerns. Radio for the Blind developed a relationship with the New Orleans Academy of Ophthalmology. The Academy is an outreach and educational organization for ophthalmologists. In discussion with various ophthalmologists, it was made known that many patients with progressive deterioration of vision who visit the over 200 ophthalmologists who are members of the Academy are at a loss to get information on the next steps they should take to deal with their eventual blindness. The doctors have been unable to give them the information such as rehabilitation programs, library services, adjustment to blindness, support groups and the many other services available to these patients in need. WRBH has been providing this information over 88.3 FM for years. WRBH developed a brochure to help provide this information to these newly visually impaired citizens directly through the offices of their ophthalmologist. They are provided with a comprehensive brochure that lists and describes the agencies, support groups and institutions that they need to help them maintain complete and fulfilled lives. These brochures are provided free of charge in these offices, as well as offices such as Rehabilitation Services and hospitals, and via mail.

Another current project is our Introduction to Braille Workshop. This workshop helps people that become newly visually impaired or perhaps have been visually impaired for some time, but had never had the opportunity to learn braille, the mode of "print" communication for the blind. The purpose of the Introduction to Braille workshops has been to give these people a basic knowledge in braille so that they may be able to identify their clothing or the hanger, braille their cans and boxes of food for identification, as well as take notes and phone numbers as needed. They complete the workshop with enough braille to function in their homes, and a foundation to continue their studies in a rehabilitation center or college if so desired. They can eventually become independently literate. We are also currently formulating a "Braille-On-the-Air" instruction for shut-ins.

With the move from an 1,100 square foot apartment at the Lighthouse for the Blind to our 5,000 square foot facility, WRBH has been able to provide another very valuable service to the blind community. WRBH is now the meeting place for all of the blind advocacy, support and social organizations of the blind in the community including the Greater New Orleans National Federation of the Blind, the Retinitis Pigmentosa Support Group, the Blinded Veterans Association, the Coalition of Blind Organizations and the Coalition of Concerned Citizens with Disabilities. This service allows these organizations to work and develop in an environment that is elegant, professional and accessible. Prior to this building's availability, these organizations were forced to rent meeting space or cram into the living rooms of members. This facility is provided free of charge to the blind community and is available anytime it is needed. There are often multiple activities occurring in different parts of the building on behalf of the blind or by the blind themselves. The blind community has had more direct access to the City of New Orleans, as representatives from the Mayor's Office, Department of Streets and Police Department have come to the WRBH building on the invitation of various blind organizations to discuss issues directly affecting the blind as it relates to the department represented. The Regional Transit Authority has met with blind citizens at WRBH to discuss the Lift, the major mode of transportation by the blind.

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