Free Information and Entertainment on Your Phone

By Brian McCallen, LightHouse guest blogger

Do you want to find out the latest news but can’t read the paper? Do you want to read a magazine but are frustrated because you can’t see the pictures? Access News is the solution to your problems.

Access News by Phone from the Society for the Blind in Sacramento is Northern California’s premier radio-reading service. All you need is a touch-tone telephone and a free subscription to listen to newspapers, newsletters, magazines and other entertainment and information seven days a week. The best part is that trained volunteers read the newspaper articles and describe the magazine pictures to keep you informed and entertained.

Access News’ most popular programs are actually the Safeway, Raley’s and other grocery store ads. In addition, some of the service’s exciting entertainment fare includes the “CBS Mystery Theater” and “Dragnet” radio dramas.

Using Access News was a fun and welcoming experience. Upon calling the Society for the Blind, I spoke with Joseph Hamilton, the program manager. Hamilton put me on the subscription list and registered my name, address and phone number in the Access News system. Then, he gave me a toll-free phone number, user code and a security number, and I was all set to use the service.

I dialed the toll-free number, listened to the prompt and pressed “1” to jump to the “California Access News Local Content Area.” After punching in my user code and security number, I heard all of the options in the main menu.

I like action-packed, thrilling radio dramas, so I decided to listen to an episode of “Dragnet.” It was fun to hear and visualize how Detective Sergeants Joe Friday and Ben Romero solved an L.A. homicide and caught the suspects.

One idea that might make Access News a little easier to navigate is the ability to use voice recognition. Without having to find which buttons to push, I’d be able to just say my choices into the phone.

I interviewed Tuan Nguyen, a college student and Access News user from Sacramento. I asked Nguyen about his experience with the service, and he said it’s an excellent resource for daily information. Nguyen uses Access News to look up store ads and listen to the day’s news with his cup of morning coffee or nightly drink of vodka.

He also had some suggestions for improvement. He wants “even more magazines that are not currently available, such as scientific journals for enthusiastic college students in the sciences, latest romance novels for active blind readers, and expansion of the library of Old Time Radio Shows for enthusiastic collectors.” Nguyen went on to say that Access News should expand even more to attract blind communities in the U.S., around the world and even on the web.

To subscribe to or provide feedback for Access News, call 916-732-4010. To listen to a demonstration, dial 916-732-4000 or toll-free (in California) 800-665-4667. For more information about the service, click here.