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Audience Challenges

Audio information services help more than just the blind

Jennifer Nigro. Photo by KU Marketing Communications

The author is the board secretary of the International Association of Audio Information Services (IAAIS) and coordinator of volunteers for the Audio-Reader Network in Lawrence, Kan. IAAIS commentaries are featured regularly

As broadcasters, we ask ourselves every day, “Who is our audience?” Audience is everything. We want to know what they listen to, what they buy, how they think. We want that audience to grow, and we program accordingly. Our audience keeps us going — whether through advertising revenue or public radio support. We, in turn, provide news, information and entertainment.

Building an audience is a challenge we all face, and audio information services have a major image problem to overcome. You see, we are known for our service to people with blindness and other vision impairments. But there is another group we serve — we serve the “print-disabled.” There are two problems with using this term to describe our audience.

1) It’s not a household name. It’s not even in the dictionary. People are more likely to know what it means to “autotune” than they are to understand what print-disabled means.

2) Print-disabled is an all-encompassing term covering a number of different afflictions for someone who might not be able to read standard print. Maybe they were injured by an IED in Afghanistan and no longer have use of their arms. Maybe it is ALS, MS or cerebral palsy that prevents them from holding a book. It could be a brain injury, autism or another learning disability. These all fall under the term print-disabled, and we rely on our potential audience to know what that means.

This creates a marketing challenge for audio information services. Thousands who could benefit from the service don’t think they are “blind enough.” Those who are most equipped to share information about our services, optometrists and ophthalmologists, want to hand out hope, not resources for coping. We rely heavily on our volunteers, our own small staffs and community groups like Lions Clubs to help us spread the word.

But here’s the thing — OUR audience is YOUR audience. Among your listeners there are most certainly visually-impaired or print-disabled people who could benefit from access to their local newspaper, a monthly magazine or a new book. Radio is all about providing access to information — why not work together to spread the word about audio information services nationwide? A few seconds of air time could make all the difference in someone’s life.

If you would be interested in working with your local audio information service to run a promo about resources in your area, contact IAAIS at 800-280-5325.