|City||New Orleans, Louisiana|
|Broadcast area||New Orleans, Louisiana|
|Slogan||Reading fine print for the blind, the literary and the visionary.|
|First air date||1982|
|Format||Radio reading service|
|Callsign meaning||Radio for the Blind & Handicapped|
|Owner||Radio For The Blind & Print Handicapped, Inc.|
WRBH 88.3 FM is a non-commercial radio outlet in New Orleans, Louisiana that primarily provides radio reading service programming for the blind and print handicapped, one of only two such stations in the United States. Services include readings of books, original programming and readings of newspapers including The Wall Street Journal and The Times-Picayune. WYPL in Memphis, Tennessee provides similar services. The station's owners are Radio For The Blind & Print Handicapped, which is where the call letters came from. They operate at 88.3 MHz with an ERP of 51 kW. The station was founded by Dr. Robert McLean, a blind mathematician.
WRBH began as the dream of a local mathematician, Dr. Robert McClean. He was blind, but he had a vision: a FM reading radio station, with strong programming content that would improve the lives of blind and visually impaired persons for productive, fulfilling lives. In 1975, McClean began leasing airtime from WWNO and renting studio space from New Orleans’ Lighthouse for the Blind. By 1982, his efforts expanded after purchasing the 88.3 FM wavelength, officially making WRBH the United States’ first 24-hour FM reading radio station for the blind. Today, WRBH remains the USA’s only full-time FM reading radio service and is one of only three such stations in the world.
In 1994, WRBH purchased a 4,000 square foot, 19th century Victorian building on New Orleans’ Magazine Street, a major thoroughfare. This building has been the home of WRBH’s recording studio and administrative space ever since. In 2000 WRBH added its programming to the internet via live audio streaming and podcasts.
In 2014, WRBH partnered with HEROfarm, a New Orleans based marketing and public relations firm, to redesign its website, making it fully compatible with screen reading software. Now the station impacts the lives of the visually impaired not only in the New Orleans region, but also all over the world through its online streaming capabilities.
WRBH’s mission is to turn the printed word into the spoken word so that the blind and print handicapped can receive the same ease of access to current information as their sighted peers.
The majority of information in print and on the internet is not easily accessible to those who cannot read. For the blind and print handicapped community, this lack of access to information can increase their sense of isolation, lower their standard of living, and become a serious obstacle in everyday life. WRBH seeks to keep everyone equally informed by providing access to news and information, promoting cultural enrichment, and encouraging mental and emotional independence for those who cannot read.
WRBH offers a wide variety of programming including local and national news, best-selling fiction and non-fiction books, magazine articles, children’s books, event calendars, interview segments, health programs, cooking shows, and grocery store ads, as well as shows geared toward Spanish, Haitian, and Vietnamese communities. This programming is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year because of over 150 dedicated volunteers who donate nearly 5,000 hours of their time annually.
WRBH produces several in-house shows including Charlie’s Music Show where host Charles Smith interviews musicians of all genres; Writers Forum, which provides an opportunity for local authors to discuss their work; and New Orleans by Mouth, moderated by Amy Sins.
WRBH’s target audience is all those with difficulty in reading. While the majority of reading services for the blind use mechanized voice software, WRBH is the only organization providing this variety of programming via the human voice through over 150 volunteers. This makes WRBH’s programs particularly of interest to the newly blind or those who have experienced vision loss due to age, since it can take several years for the untrained ear to become accustomed to the speed and cadence of the mechanized voice software.
In addition, WRBH’s content is also of interest to the general public, who tune in to listen to the news, event listings, best-selling fiction and nonfiction books, short stories, magazine articles, and an array of programs encouraging cultural, educational, and emotional enrichment.
Since 2000, WRBH has served a world-wide audience by making audio streaming and podcasts available free of charge over the internet. WRBH’s terrestrial broadcasting power is 25,000 watts, making the station’s FM signal available across a 90-mile radius stretching over Hancock County, Mississippi and the following Louisiana parishes: Orleans, Jefferson, St. Tammany, St. Charles, St. John, Terrebonne, St. Bernard, and Plaquemines.
WRBH and the New Orleans Community
WRBH’s goal for the New Orleans community and beyond is to engage, energize, and empower its listeners through access to information and entertainment. WRBH has received several awards including a Proclamation of Recognition for 30 Years of Service from the City of New Orleans in 2012, the 1999 Governor’s Media Award, the 1998 Mayor’s Medal of Honor, and in 1990 was named the 257th Point of Light by President George Bush, Sr.
To further its outreach in the community, the station collaborates with the following organizations that share common goals or serve the blind and print handicapped in other ways:
- Lighthouse for the Blind serves the blind and visually impaired community by providing quality products, services, and opportunities for independence. WRBH guest lectures at their classes twice a year, refers listeners to their services, and supports their organization through public service announcements (PSAs).
- Blinded Veterans Association promotes the welfare of blinded veterans so that they may take their rightful place in the community and work with their fellow citizens toward the creation of a peaceful world. WRBH participates in their annual expo and supports them through PSAs.
- New Orleans Filipino-American Lions Club refurbishes used eyeglasses for the needy. WRBH acts as a drop off spot for used glasses, supports them through PSAs, and allows their directors to meet in WRBH’s board room once a month, free of charge.
- Entergy: Since 2009, WRBH has partnered with Entergy to broadcast Going Green, which educates listeners on energy efficiency. Entergy underwrites the program, while Entergy and WRBH generate the educational content.
- Ben Franklin High School: WRBH partners with Ben Franklin High School during “Hogs for the Cause,” a fundraising festival for families with children being treated for brain cancer. Ben Franklin High School’s Student Council Members volunteer to help WRBH in this event.
- Young Leadership Council: WRBH partners with the Young Leadership Council (YLC) to broadcast “One Book One New Orleans.” YLC spearheads the campaign for literacy, which calls on residents to share the experience of reading the same book each fall. WRBH records and broadcasts an audio recording of the book, read by YLC youth volunteers.
- The Big Read, a project of the National Endowment for the Arts, supports community-wide reading programs that encourage reading and participation by diverse audiences. Southern Food and Beverage Museum acts as host, and WRBH records the book and advertises the program.
- WRBH's website
- Query the FCC's FM station database for WRBH
- Radio-Locator information on WRBH
- Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for WRBH