Zeno Spotlight: Audio Journal
When Vincent Lombardi followed in the footsteps of his daughter by volunteering to read for Audio Journal, little did he know that more than two decades later he would serve as director of this amazing organization. Audio Journal, based in Worcester, Massachusetts, focuses on broadcasting for the blind. With just three full time staff, the company relies heavily on assistance from volunteers.
Audio Journal Inc. is a nonprofit social service agency working to provide access to information, increase employment opportunities and overcome accessibility barriers for residents of Central Massachusetts with visual impairments and physical disabilities.
Since its inception, Audio Journal has grown in strength as it continues to impact the lives of those with disabilities in a positive way. The story of this organization is a fascinating one and the company has adapted its technique to the changing times and technology.
Audio Journal is a proud user of the Zeno Media Call-to-Listen and streaming platforms which allow callers who are blind as well as others who are not able to read and hear news stories and other features from their local newspapers.
Lombardi said Audio Journal is not only limited to persons who are blind, but also those who have reading challenges such as paraplegics.
“There are roughly 5000 legally blind residents in our geographical area that want to keep up with the news”, said Lombardi. “At the same time, some listeners use us for companionship, trying to combat the feelings that set in when a person who has lost their vision becomes withdrawn socially with many showing signs of depression.”
While Audio Journal has been broadcasting since 1987, Lombardi started volunteering in 1995 and he has witnessed its major growth. Before adopting the Zeno Media platform, someone had to be on location to manually start the programs. “Now we have a lot more flexibility with the timing of programs and the repeating of what has already broadcast,” said Lombardi.
Some of the programs include African American Experience, The Wall Street Journal, Community News, and Newsweek. Audio Journal covers a wide array of content such as news, entertainment, culture, science, and history to keep listeners informed and engaged.
Lombardi said the biggest asset for the organization is the volunteers. Many are not aware of the existence of Audio Journal and the volunteers who dedicate their time and talent to help others learn about what we offer.
Mary Frandsen, Director of Development, is responsible for Fundraising and Social Media. She said that most people hear about Audio Journal thanks to the volunteers.
One of the biggest fundraisers is the annual “Dining in the Dark” event. Those in attendance are blindfolded for their entire five-course meal where they must feel their way to the food while also having a good time. “We do this to provide donors with a small inkling into the experiences of our listeners,” Frandsen said.
This brings awareness not just to Audio Journal and the work they are doing, but also to the blind community in that area. Both Frandsen and Lombardi agree that this kind of human service has changed the way they view those with disabilities.
Lombardi believes more support is needed if Audio Journal is to continue its mandate to provide to voice for those who are blind.