25 years with the Reader Service

I first heard about the Reader Service in 1988 when it was a new venture about to be launched by the Council of Disabled People in Milton Keynes. There was a notice read out on the talking newspaper, Sound News, inviting Visually Impaired People to get in touch with Liz Roe, the Coordinator, if they needed help from a volunteer reader.

I telephoned Liz and she came to visit me at home to find out what help I needed. At that time, I was 26 and had a one year old little boy so wanted someone to come and read for me when he was sleeping during the afternoons. Liz found me a volunteer very quickly and I was the second person to be matched with someone who could help me.   I was helping to run a quiz club and really needed help with sourcing questions from quiz books. My volunteer, Rosalind, read out questions and when I found one I liked, I would write it out in large print for myself.

Rosalind was my reader for six years, during which time my life changed considerably. She helped me with filling in forms relating to my divorce and claims for housing benefit etc.   My involvement with the quiz club came to an end and Rosalind read books to me for pleasure. I was married again in 1992 and had a baby in 1993 so Rosalind found herself reading books to two of us.  In 1994 Rosalind’s working hours changed and she had to stop reading for me and was placed with another service user.

During the year from 1993-4, I attended evening classes in A/S level English Literature. This meant that I needed more help from the Reader Service to support me. I had a volunteer, Caroline, who came to classes with me, she took notes, read out anything that needed to be read in the classroom, and also acted as my amanuensis in the exam. I also needed an extra reader at home to help with the set texts and Barbara came to read Shakespeare. The Coordinator at the time, Rita, also printed out large print poetry for me.

When Rosalind stopped reading for me, I was placed with my current volunteer, Tracy, who has been reading for me for 19 years. Tracy reads letters, minutes, brochures, and most importantly checks my bank and credit card statements going through all the receipts and ticking them off.

Due to the amount of reading I have to do, I also have a reader called Pat who visits once a fortnight to read articles, minutes from meetings, newsletters, catalogues,  etc.

I have been using the Shop and See service for several years, my first volunteer Jenny and I visited the library to choose audio books, the bank and then did some pleasure shopping. I now do the same things with my current volunteer Linda, we have a very enjoyable time once a fortnight in the MK centre.

I rely upon the Reader Service to provide me with the means to remain independent, I can do with my volunteers things that my husband would otherwise have to do for me.

Over the course of the last 25 years I have given my time to helping the  service as much as I could. I joined the committee in 1990 and have held the post of Vice-Chairperson (1992-94 Chairperson (1994-1998), Fundraising Volunteer (2005-2013) and now I am Chairperson again.

I have been  involved with the training of our volunteers since 1990, I have run fundraising events and until recently was a Director of the Walnut Tree Charity Shop which supports the Reader Service.

The Reader Service is a big part of my life and I am passionate about ensuring a healthy future for the service.

Paula Suchy MBE
Chairperson 2013

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