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COVID-19: Staying Connected Through RTBS

Jane Nielsen, Executive Director

Radio Talking Book Service

July 2, 2020

“Thank you for opening up a glorious new day — days! – for me. I will never forget your kindness. Tell your wonderful, unselfish volunteers that. This has been the most wonderful thing to happen to me in years!” gushes an Omaha listener.

Radio Talking Book Service (RTBS) serves Nebraska and southwest Iowa with a mission to provide human-voiced information to individuals who have disabilities which prevent them from reading. Our key program is Radio Talking Book Network, a statewide radio reading service, serving 9,657 individuals across Nebraska and southwest Iowa.

Warren, a Lincoln listener, told us “Thank him [volunteer Matthew] for reading the HyVee ads. I know it’s a lot of work and I sure appreciate it!” Warren uses a Google Home smart speaker to listen to the ads every Wednesday at noon. He records the HyVee and Super Saver segments with a handheld recorder so he can listen to them again, plan his grocery shopping, and be ready to go when his ride picks him up to run errands.

RTBS makes creative use of technology and talent to ensure access to vital information for our listeners.  In light of COVID-19 developments, RTBN ceased in-person volunteering mid-March. Our staff and dedicated volunteers are working hard to provide uninterrupted 24/7 programming for our listeners.  RTBN has transformed our cadre of volunteers into remote readers who are providing the vital, local programming our listeners rely on now more than ever.  RTBN has not had to alter our program schedule as a result.  We have over 50 volunteers reading newspapers, grocery and department store ads, magazines and more every single day in their homes using digital recorders, smartphones, and tablets to record.  RTBN has added COVID-19 specific programming including a modified weekly Community Calendar to ensure our listeners are able to access food, services, and assistance they need and stay abreast of closures and cancellations.

RTBS brings the printed word to life for those who are blind, visually-impaired, or print-impaired due to stroke, illness, or disease. There is never a fee for a radio or the service. RTBS receives no tax dollars and is solely supported by grants and donations.

Following the 2016 election, Margaret from Omaha called to say, “Thank you for airing the League of Women Voters Guide. The information helped me so much as I voted for the first time in years.”

For more information about RTBS, to listen live, view the program schedule, or to apply for a radio, please visit or call 402.572.3003 and leave us a message.