A new internet radio set has been developed for blind and visually impaired listeners, allowing people to listen online to audio books, podcasts, talking newspapers and audio catalogues, as well as internet radio stations from around the world.
Manufactured by the charity British Wireless for the Blind Fund ( www.blind.org.uk ), the ‘Sonata’ radio – claimed to be the first of its kind – was launched earlier this month, and allows users to listen to any streamable, unlicensed internet audio feed.
Designed to be as simple as possible to use, the Sonata is controlled entirely with five buttons. When connected to broadband internet, the radio contacts a server in Holland to allow readers to choose from a current list of available radio stations and podcasts.
Although built primarily for blind and visually impaired users and available to such users on free permanent loan, the Sonata is also suitable for other users, said Fiona Fountain, head of fundraising and information for the BWBF. “It’s so simple to use that anybody who has limited mobility – for example, older people with poor manual dexterity – or people who may not use computers can use it”, she said.
Fountain said the radio has other potential applications, as it has the potential to broadcast messages to other Sonata users such as news of other radio services. “The BWBF could record its own message to tell people about a new service on Sonata,” said Fountain. “This means we can do it live, without having to write a letter, get it Brailled, or use large print or CD format, and then post it out, as we’ve had to do in past.”
The concept for the Sonata originates from Holland, where churches used the system to enable the home-bound to listen in to their local church service. The company responsible for developing the product, Solutions Radio, realised it had wider applications and approached the BWBF to develop it for the UK market. For those not qualifying for a loan, the Sonata costs £299 with a further one-off activation charge of £52.