Talking 21st century

IMAGINE if your eyes stopped functioning the way they should.

Not suddenly but a slow, steady loss of sight until you could only register shapes and things on the very peripheral of your vision.

Macular degeneration — the progressive, painless loss of central vision — is very real and for those in the Swan Hill community like Claire Betts who have the incurable disease it's the little things — like flicking through the newspaper — that matter most. 

Enter: the Talking Guardian.

Dreamed up more than three decades ago, the Talking Guardian began in 1983 when Quambatook's Leona Mann had the bright idea to produce a cassette tape of local news for vision impaired Swan Hill residents.

Cassettes were in vogue and the Swan Hill public library already had a high-speed copy machine as part of current services replicating popular music tapes for young library users. 

After discussions with the Swan Hill Guardian and the Royal Victorian Institute of the Blind (now Vision Australia) the library decided to take a punt and the first talking newspaper in Australia was born.

For more on this story, grab a copy of Wednesday's Guardian (February 24).