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Caithness Talking Newspapers in plea for unwanted cassette players

By Alan Hendry

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Cassette players such as this one are needed by Caithness Talking Newspapers to continue its service for people with visual impairment.
Cassette players such as this one are needed by Caithness Talking Newspapers to continue its service for people with visual impairment.

An appeal has gone out for unwanted cassette players to help ensure that people with sight loss in Caithness can keep up to date with the local news.

Each week the volunteers of Caithness Talking Newspapers record items from the John O’Groat Journal and Caithness Courier that are then duplicated and sent out to visually impaired users who are no longer able to read the papers for themselves.

The service relies on cassette players but, with technology moving on, these are increasingly hard to come by.

The plea for donations of tape machines came from Deirdre Aitken, manager of Hearing and Sight Care, which supports people with hearing loss and sight loss across the far north from its offices in Wick and Thurso.

"We are having problems sourcing replacement tape players for people who receive Caithness Talking Newspapers' weekly cassette," Mrs Aitken said. "We wonder if anyone would be willing to donate any old cassette players they might have lying about.

"There seems to be a shortage of tape players to buy, and some are expensive compared to what we paid previously for them.

"They are funded by Caithness Talking Newspapers, a charity run wholly by volunteers, with no grant income. They provide their services and the tape players free of charge."

Mrs Aitken explained that the group has spoken about changing to a digital format but there would be cost implications and practical difficulties in making such a switch.

"There are quite a lot of talking newspaper services that still run on cassettes," she said. "The problem is that our folk are needing tape players and they are getting rarer."

She said unwanted cassette players or radio/cassette players would be welcome but they need to be portable.

"We'll do all the relevant checks before they go out," Mrs Aitken said. "If anyone has got any, just get in touch.

"Anyone can hand in a tape player to either of the Hearing and Sight Care centres in Wick or Thurso or phone us on 01955 606170 or 01847 895636 and we can pick them up.

"Also, if anyone would like to donate a new one, Caithness Talking Newspapers would be very grateful."

Hearing and Sight Care can also be contacted on Facebook.

Caithness Talking Newspapers is run by volunteers who are either readers or duplicators. It does not receive any funding and relies on donations.

While the service stopped during lockdown, is now up and running and the need for replacement cassette players has become apparent.

Around 60 people in the county with sight loss receive tapes of the Groat and Courier. These are recorded on a Wednesday and Friday and duplicated on Friday afternoon to be posted out for receipt on Saturday or Monday.

Mrs Aitken added: "It is a valuable service to people with visual impairment no longer able to read the local news for themselves. There is a similar service in Sutherland recording the Northern Times."

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