AIS

About Audio Information Services

Mission Statement

Tri-States Audio Information Services will foster equal access to printed materials for individuals in the tri-states who are blind, visually impaired, learning disabled, or physically disabled.
Specifically, the mission of Tri-States Audio Information Services is to make quality audio programming accessible to persons who are blind, visually impaired, learning disabled, or physically disabled. The AIS serves people of all ages, educational levels, and social backgrounds. The primary focus is to provide the following:

  1. In-depth readings of national, regional and local news along with special interest magazines and novels/short stories
  2. Feature programming related to disabilities and other topical issues
  3. Supplemental services as technology evolves and resources dictate, and
  4. Volunteer and employment opportunities for students and members of the community. Operating as a nonprofit organization, AIS seeks financial support from public and private sources.

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History of the Audio Information Services

Helen Wear

Audio Information Services in the tri-states began with the development of what was then known as the Radio Information Service for the Blind and Handicapped (RIS). The roots of the service are credited to the first blind graduate of Western Illinois University (WIU), Helen L. Wear. After retiring from a teaching career at the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired in Jacksonville, IL, Miss Wear returned to Macomb, IL. She found out about radio reading services being developed throughout the country and began questioning numerous WIU personnel and community leaders as to why the University did not have a similar service. Perseverance led E. C. ("Tug") Haddock, Station Manager of WIUM-FM and Dr. Robert Milkman, then Director of WIU's Office of Instructional Technology, to the task of researching radio reading. After two years of planning, grants were awarded by the Comprehensive Education and Training Act (CETA) program and radio reading became a reality in west central Illinois. WIUM-FM, WIU's campus radio station (which became a National Public Radio affiliate in 1982), supplied the sub-carrier frequency where RIS broadcasts still originate today.

On March 13, 1978, the RIS produced its first broadcast for individuals who are blind, visually impaired, learning disabled, or physically disabled in an area including all or parts of seven Illinois counties. It was the third radio reading service out of eleven now operating in the state of Illinois. In 1978 the RIS was airing programs from 1 pm until 5 pm five days a week and had 20-25 volunteer readers. The first control room was located in 448 Memorial Hall, a 9 x 14 room off the WIUM studios, with newspaper preparation in the corridor outside the control room. Office space was next door in 449 Memorial Hall. In 1982 the RIS moved to 504 Memorial Hall, the building's penthouse. On September 16, 2002, the services moved to their current location at 504 University Services Building thanks to the foresight and efforts of Dorie Vallilo, General Manager of Tri States Public Radio.

Through the years the Radio Information Service expanded its programming. Today the RIS is a 24-hour service 365 days a year. It produces local programming for all or parts of a 20-county area from 8 am until 11 pm daily with supplemental programming from the Kansas Audio-Reader Network overnight. The number of volunteers has grown, too, and on the average there are 140 people who offer their time and talent annually.

As local programming hours expanded, an unmet need in the community was recognized and addressed. In December 1991 the Personal Reader Service (PRS) was added as a supplemental service for RIS listeners. It was designed to match volunteers and clients one-on-one in order to read a variety of printed materials in the comfort of the client's home. The second of its kind in the nation, the PRS was initially funded by a three-year grant from the Retirement Research Foundation and covered the entire RIS listening area. The PRS continued to operate in McDonough County until May 2011.

In January of 1995 Call-Radio Information Service (Call-RIS) was offered to RIS listeners. Developed as a supplemental service, it utilizes voice-mail technology offered by WIU's telephone system. The voice-mail boxes offered a community calendar of WIU and McDonough County area events until May 2011.

March 2001 marked the launch of another supplemental service offered to RIS listeners: The Web Streaming Service (WSS). The WSS brings RIS broadcasts to the Internet's World Wide Web, where it is "streamed" to a listener's personal computer.

March 2001 introduced "Audio Information Services" as the "umbrella" term to describe all audio services offered by WIU's College of Fine Arts and Communication (COFAC) to individuals who are blind, visually impaired, learning disabled, or physically disabled in the tri-states. The services include the Radio Information Service, and Web Streaming Service.

Tri-States Audio Information Services are funded as a service of WIU's COFAC. Additional funding is provided by a grant from the Illinois State Library, area United Ways, area Lions Clubs, and fund raising activities.


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Radio Information Service (RIS)

504 University Services Building, Western Illinois University
Phone: (309) 298-2403
Fax: (309) 298-2133
Office Hours: M-F 8:00 am - 4:30 pm; Sat/Sun 8:00 am - 12:00 pm

RIS Listener at home

The Radio Information Service of WIUM/WIUW is a regional radio reading service for persons who are blind, visually impaired, learning disabled, or physically disabled. Broadcasting from the campus of Western Illinois University, the RIS operates on subcarrier channels in conjunction with WIUM-FM Macomb; WIUW-FM Warsaw/Keokuk; and WQUB-FM Quincy; and WVKC-FM, Galesburg; and 106.3 FM Burlington. Listeners are supplied with pre-tuned radio receivers in order to pick up the closed-circuit broadcasts. The radio receivers are available at no charge and are on permanent loan until the listener is no longer in need of the service.

Volunteers and staff members read national, regional and local newspapers, special interest magazines, and novels for hundreds of listeners in the tri-states. The newspapers, magazines and other printed materials that are read are not available in Braille, large print, or on audiocassettes. Additionally, the RIS broadcasts feature programs tailored exclusively for the listeners. Broadcasts reach all or parts of a 20-county area spanning west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. Primary attention is given to daily newspapers serving the communities reached by the RIS. The Radio Information Service broadcasts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with overnight hours provided by the Gatewave Radio Reading Service for the Blind.

The Radio Information Service is a member of Illinois Radio Information Services, (IRIS) - a statewide organization representing radio reading services located in and servicing communities around Belleville, Carbondale, Champaign, Chicago, Dekalb/Rockford, Godfrey, Macomb, Mt. Carmel, Peoria, Rock Island, and Springfield - and the International Association of Audio Information Services (IAAIS), promoting audio information services worldwide.

To apply for the service, telephone us at (309) 298-2403; or E-mail us at ais@wiu.edu; or fill out the online listener application.


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Web Streaming Service (WSS)

504 University Services Building, Western Illinois University
Phone: (309) 298-2403
Fax: (309) 298-2133
Office Hours: M-F 8:00 am - 4:30 pm

The Audio Information Services is now offering the RIS program schedule on the World Wide Web for listeners who use personal computers. Located at www.tristatesaudio.org the WSS Website provides real-time audio streaming of RIS broadcasts. The WSS uses the latest technology to further foster equal access to printed materials not made available in Braille, large print, or on cassettes. There is no charge to access the WSS, though it is password protected due to copyright laws.

To apply for the service, telephone us at (309) 298-2403; or E-mail us at ais@wiu.edu; or fill out the online listener application.

Additionally, listeners with Apple and Android mobile devices can receive real-time broadcasts using the iBlink radio application.