CRIS En Español Established as More Latinos Need Service


Diane Duhaime, a CRIS volunteer and listener, operating the control board during a live, one-hour news program. Pictured with Duhaime is her dog Iroc, and volunteer readers Susan Carey (left) and Lisa Garlasco.
By Robert Cyr
In response to an anticipated high demand for Spanish language services, the Connecticut Radio Information System (CRIS) will be starting new programming soon and they’re looking for a few good speakers.
¿Puede hablar Español?
Although CRIS’s “Talking Newsstand for the Blind” has been operating for more than three decades, the station’s board of directors decided to keep up with real-world demographics and recognize the fast growing Latino population. Many are expected to use the Spanish-language service, dubbed CRIS En Español, said CRIS executive director Diane Weaver Dunne.
“There is a growing, unmet need for audio versions of publications for Spanish speakers with disabilities in Connecticut,” she said, citing U.S. Census results as the largest impetus for the programming. Connecticut’s population is 13.4 percent Latino or slightly more than 475,000. According to some estimates, as many as 1 in 10 people in the state might speak Spanish.
CRIS is looking for volunteers fluent in Spanish to read for one hour a week from selected material in 11 different Spanish-language publications, including La Voz Hispana, El Sol News, Ser Padres, Identidad Latina, iHola, Vida en Connecticut, and the Spanish versions of People, Cosmopolitan, National Geographic and ESPN magazines.
CRIS recently received special funding from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, which will partially fund the launch of CRIS En Español. “We have auditioned six Spanish-speaking volunteers at this time and a sub-committee will select the volunteers based on their auditions,” said Dunne, adding that programming will launch in January.
CRIS has a broadcast center in Windsor and four satellite studios (Danbury, Norwich, Trumbull, and West Haven), Dunne said. The station has about 350 volunteers and three full-time staff members who provide audio versions of news and information for people who are blind or who have physical, learning, emotional or intellectual disabilities that prevent them from reading printed material, she said. CRIS expects to hire a part-time Spanish-speaking production assistant as the program grows, she said.
Results from the regional 2004 Los Angeles Latino Eye Study (LALES) found visual impairment and blindness to be increasingly high among Latinos, in particular older Latino adults. LALES also shows that 3 percent of the study participants are visually impaired and 0.4 percent of participants are blind, according to the National Eye Institute. Census figures for 2010 estimate that 3.3 percent of the overall population has vision impairment.
Vincent Wojtusik, 58, lives in Windsor and listens to CRIS for the news roundup once a day, usually in the evening, he said. He is totally blind. Wojtusik, who does not speak Spanish, said Spanish-speaking people in his position could stand to benefit immensely from the new program and felt bad for people not only coping with blindness, but a language barrier as well.
“You get a chance to stay fresh on events if you’re not able to read the paper yourself; you get the same access to it that sighted people might have,” he said.
“There’s no Braille newspaper and it wouldn’t be practical to do that every day or even once a week if there was. It’s a great service they’re providing – it’s hard to get friends and family to read to you every day.”
For more information, contact Dunne ( or Scott Baecker (, call 860-527-8000 or visit