Select programs feel the squeeze from budget cuts at University of Kansas

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Several groups at the University of Kansas knew budget cuts were coming, and this week the hard numbers are clear. Audio-reader at the University of Kansas is just one program being hit with budget cuts.

“We help people lead productive lives,” said volunteer Carl Graves.

Governor Sam Brownback ordered $7 million in cuts back in May, now those groups are learning exactly how much they'll lose.

The audio-reader program at KU will lose $100,000 of funding.

“I had a sporting accident, and due to that I detached my retinas, and due some surgical complications, they were unable to restore my vision, I had vision prior to that point,” said Mary Chappell, who is completely blind.

She`s been using the audio-reader service at KU for about eight years.

“I just retired from the University of Kansas in May, after 34 years, and I have to tell you that audio-reader was kind of that savior of media in respect to the work place,” added Chappell. “ I was able to immediately get information that I needed.”

But the service that helps more than 8,000 people -- budget cuts totaling $100,000 for the program -- could be devastating for those who depend on it.

“It allows people to hear talking books, and newspapers, and magazines, and gives them access to news and information that they wouldn`t otherwise be able to because we actually read them to our clients,” said Dan Skinner, the Director of the Audio-Reader Network.

Skinner says even more people -- in both Kansas and Missouri -- listen to them online, and via apps.

And they cater to a wide variety of people.

“People who are completely blind, those who may be suffering from macular degeneration, or just have an inability to read text for a wide variety of medical reasons,” Skinner added.

Budget cuts mean they`ll have to be more dependent on donors -- as the program doesn't charge listeners, and depends heavily on volunteers.

“I read the Kansas City Star live on the air every Friday,” said Graves.

Graves is one of more than 400 volunteers. He’s been doing this for 19 years.

“We help people lead productive lives,” Graves said. “It`s fun, because I get to use my radio voice!”

He says without this service, some people might not be able to get typically readily accessible information.

“I learn things, but I also I feel as if I`m making a difference,” said Graves.

“It`s kind of global, you can be connected with books and magazines and all kinds of things that`s going to help you have a better quality of life,” Chappell said. “It`s not merely a  person sitting on one side of a microphone talking, and having people listen, it`s a social thing, it`s a contact thing, it`s learning about  what`s going on in the community, so I think it would be kind of devastating to those who really depend on it.”

Audio-reader is having a "For Your Ears Only" special benefit sale of vinyl records, CDs, DVDs, vintage and modern audio equipment, musical instruments and more.

It’s September 9th and 10th at the Douglas County Fairgrounds. All proceeds benefit audio-reader.

For more information, click on this link.