When Francois Jacobs moved to Australia from South Africa six years ago he faced three major challenges.
Making friends, finding a job and navigating a brand-new country as someone who has been blind since birth.
For many, this would be enough to steer them away from moving 10,000km away from their home – but not for Jacobs.
He said one of the key things that helped him along the way was a simple friendly and helpful voice coming from his radio every single day.
The radio station is run by Vision Australia and helps the blind and low vision community and many others who do not face a disability receive crucial information.
It is the largest independently run community radio network in Australia.
More than 700,000 people across the country tune into the organisation’s radio stations every month and only 36 percent of these listeners identify as having a disability.
From reading the newspapers and books every morning to advertising volunteer opportunities within the organisation, the radio station makes a huge difference to lives daily.
“Vision Australia Radio puts information in your ear, I found out so much about available services for blind people in Australia through listening to Vision Australia Radio,” Francois said.
“When you’re a migrant and you know absolutely no-one, everything can take a long time. It took me ages to find work but I found out about volunteering opportunities through listening to Talking Vision, when they interview a blind person who volunteered for the organisation. It was a way in for me.”
The radio station relies heavily on the work of volunteers across the country and community support helps fund operations. Each year it costs more than $2 million to keep Vision Australia Radio broadcasting.
Each year it costs more than $2 million to keep Vision Australia Radio broadcasting.
The month of June is Vision Australia’s Radiothon event to drive donations to keep the essential service going.
From now until June 30, all donations of more than $2 will be tax deductible and will help keep the station on air.
“Our local radio reading services are often a primary news source for people with a print-disability,” Vision Australia CEO Ron Hooton, said.
“Could you imagine living through the peak of the pandemic and not having accessible news in a format you require? It’s quite terrifying to think that people living with disability, who are often the most vulnerable, could be without a service like Vision Australia Radio which informs, educates and empowers them.”
Peter Greco, who is blind, has been a presenter on Vision Australia’s radio station based in Adelaide for 29 years.
“I love the people we speak to, regular guests to one off…everyone has a story to tell and often they’re stories that other media wouldn’t cover.
“A lot of Vision Australia Radio is about advocacy, if we as blind people don’t advocate for ourselves - you can’t expect other people too.”
However, the cost to run the vital service is “significant”, and Hooton said staying on air would not be possible without the 600 volunteers across Australia who give thousands of their hours to keep the airwaves rolling.
“Our dedicated volunteers have navigated countless lockdowns and restrictions to continuously broadcast through the COVID-19 pandemic, providing people who are blind, have low vision or a print disability with equal access to vital news and information.”
To donate, head to the Vision Australia Radio website for details.