Volunteer Opportunities

Reading Volunteers

You must take and pass Audio-Reader's audition to become a volunteer broadcaster for Audio-Reader. The audition consists of a 50-word pronunciation test and a series of reading samples designed to gauge your ability to read a variety of materials written at a number of different reading levels. The reading test, which takes about 45 minutes, can be done at our Lawrence studios or at home. Audio-Reader accepts volunteers 18 and older. 

How can I prepare for the audition?

The audition is a "cold" reading, so good sight-reading skills are essential. Although there is little you can do to prepare for the audition, the following is the list of characteristics we will use to evaluate your audition:

  • Pronunciation & Enunciation: The reader’s speech is clearly understandable, not slurring, mumbling, dropping letters off words or stumbling over pronunciations. Pronounces names, terminology and other complex words correctly and provides spelling of words with multiple pronunciations.
  • Emphasis: The reading is natural – not patronizing, exaggerated, singsong or monotonous. It should be expressive, not exaggerated; relaxed, not stilted.
  • Pace & Phrasing: The reader’s pace is appropriate to the material; not too fast (stumbling over words) or too slow (halting). The material is read in phrases that flow properly and make the meaning clear.
  • Professionalism: The reader exhibits poise and control over the work and the audition is free of distraction (throat clearing, paper rustling). The reader includes transitions from article to article without commenting or editorializing. The reader does not make their personal opinion of the material known through tone of voice or aside commentary.
  • Voice Quality: The reader's overall voice quality is easily understood with an engaging style without distracting qualities (raspiness, crackling, high pitch, etc.).  Their voice has consistent tone and quality throughout the work and does not show signs of tiring.  

All words and articles for the audition are taken from materials we read on a regular basis. Here are a few words similar to those found on the audition: archetype, loquacious, indigenous, obsequious, camaraderie, beleaguered, sesquicentennial.

If you do not pass the audition on your first attempt you may be invited to spend some time practicing and re-take the test at a later date.

What will I read for Audio-Reader?

Reading material assignments are determined by the volunteer (you) and the Coordinator of Volunteers. Decisions are based on the needs of the program as well as the volunteer's interests, reading skills and schedule. Most reading material is furnished by Audio-Reader.

Audio Description

Audio Description is an accessibility tool that enhances a theatre performance or other visual event for people with vision loss.  Description can also be beneficial to enhance literacy and comprehension among sighted patrons.

An Audio Description volunteer describes the visual elements of a performance, display or event using succinct, colorful language. You might call it a play-by-play for your favorite play! Describers will describe sets, costumes, action and visual jokes as they happen. This is done without talking over the actors on stage. We also read program notes and describe the performance facility. Describers are sent in pairs, other times solo, depending on the venue. Current venue relationships include Theatre Lawrence and The Lied Center in Lawrence and Starlight Theatre in the Kansas City area.

What are the qualifications for Audio Description volunteering?

  • Complete a two-day training and pass the audition.
  • Be willing to participate in ongoing training to remain active.
  • Have the ability to drive to and from the assigned venue in your personal vehicle.
  • Be able to attend at least two performances for every assigned description-- once to preview, once to describe (previews are provided at no cost to the volunteer and they are often permitted to bring a guest).
  • Be willing to put some time into preparation for each description (looking up information about the show, learning correct pronunciations, etc.).
  • Have the ability to lift a large suitcase of heavy equipment.
  • Be able to set up the equipment used to broadcast the descriptions (you'll receive training).
  • Have a good vocabulary and be able to think quickly.
  • Be available evenings and weekends.

Sensory Garden

The Audio-Reader Sensory Garden is filled with flowers, herbs, and textures to delight the senses. Plants with interesting colors and textures intermingle with fragrant leaves of herbs and various sounds of nature. Everyone can enjoy the restorative benefits of being in nature, including individuals with vision and other sensory impairments. We are always looking for a few more regular volunteers to help in the Sensory Garden. Our garden volunteers typically serve for about one hour per week. Please call 785-864-4600 or email Beth McKenzie at bethmckenzie@ku.edu for more information about the Garden.