Michigan extends funding for newspaper service that gives blind people in state access to hundreds of newspapers and magazines, after grant request was initially denied

LANSING, Michigan , August 28, 2013 () – State funding for a service that gives blind people in Michigan access to hundreds of newspapers and magazines has been extended for six months while officials try to determine "accurate levels of use and service," an official said today.

The move follows a report in the Free Press on Tuesday that the National Federation of the Blind had notified about 1,300 Michigan subscribers that the NFB-Newsline service would be shut off Saturday due to a cut in state funding.

"The goal in granting this extension is to keep the service in place to avoid a shutdown and ensure that the blind community continues to be served in an efficient and cost effective manner," Ed Rodgers, director of Michigan's new Bureau of Services for Blind Persons, said in an e-mail today.

"As a member of the blind community I do not want this service to end," Rodgers said.

State officials say this year's grant request was initially denied "due to NFB's failure to provide timely and sufficient information."

Scott White, director of NFB-Newsline in Baltimore, Md., said he's encouraged by the extension and by Rodgers agreeing to meet with him to discuss the service. But he said he doesn't know what information has not been provided.

"They asked for certain information and we provided the information they requested," White said.

In the last year, Michigan subscribers have spent 1.2 million minutes on the telephone with NFB-Newsline, White said. That's only one measure of use, he said. Data transfers through I-phones and other devices are becoming increasingly popular, he said.

Larry Posont, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan, said he's thankful for the extension, but would like to have the issue resolved long-term.

The service, launched in 1995, provides 24/7 free access to about 360 local, national and international newspapers and magazines, including the Free Press and five other Michigan newspapers.


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