WUSR launches program for blind

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WUSR 99.5 FM, the radio voice of the University of Scranton, today launched a new broadcast geared toward blind and visually impaired residents of Lackawanna County.

The Pell Radio Reading Service, which is being offered in partnership with the Department of Communication and the Lackawanna Branch of the Pennsylvania Association for the Blind, features a wide range of topics, including daily news updates from the Times-Tribune.

It is aired Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and can be accessed through the Internet at:

Mary Lou Wascavich, executive director of the Blind Association, indicated in a press release that the new affiliation will replace the previous program, which had been housed at Association offices for almost 30 years:

Founded in 1980, the Pell Radio Reading Service has provided an invaluable service to clients of the Blind Association. Broadcasting daily from the Association’s Scranton office, trained volunteers have provided listeners with information on current events, health, sports and business, in addition to musical and short story offerings.

The new partnership was precipitated by the vast changes that have taken place in communications technology over the last few decades. Listeners have used a closed-circuit radio receiver supplied at no charge by the Blind Association but the technical quality of the broadcasts does not meet the standards of today’s technology.

With the inception of the new affiliation, the Pell Radio Reading Service will be broadcast on WUSR-FM, 95.5, from the University’s studio. Listeners will be able to access the broadcasts on any FM radio, on television at Comcast’s Channel 62, or through the Internet at http://www.playlist.wusr.scranton.edu/index.php. Although programming hours will be reduced, the quality will be a significant improvement over the current broadcast. Listeners will hear the same type of programming during the Monday through Friday broadcasts from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., including daily news from the Times-Tribune.

“We’re delighted to be able to offer this service to the community,” commented Matthew M. Reavy, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Communication at the University. “It’s an opportunity for us to reach out to a special-needs population and support the efforts of a respected community organization.” The initiative complements one of the University’s goals in achieving its mission, that of ‘extending a spirit of caring to the wider community through civic engagement and service.’

Blind Association Radio Manager Paul Trama has been acquainting volunteer readers with facilities at the new location over the last few weeks. “Volunteer readers have been the backbone of the program,” explained Mr. Trama. The new format will continue to use volunteer readers and also give University students the opportunity to add a new segment to their audience.

The United Way of Lackawanna and Wayne Counties has also been a long-time partner in the Pell Radio Reading Service. “United Way has been supporting this program for many years and we’re pleased to part of such an innovative partnership that provides an important service to people in our community,” said Stig Fromm, Manager of Community Services at United Way.

Both partners agree that the new venture is a win-win situation for all concerned. “The proximity of the station to the Blind Association, our shared non-profit community status, the availability of qualified volunteers, and the up-to-date technical equipment of the station will enable us to expand our broadcast to a much larger audience,” stated Mrs. Wascavich.

WUSR moved from the university’s Desktop and Instructional Resources area into the Department of Communication in June.

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