Meet Walt: Access News Volunteer Extraordinaire

Access News Volunteer, Walt Farl, sitting in an Access News recording booth.

Access News volunteer, Walt Farl

Walt Farl has a growing audience of people with low vision who listen to him read grocery store ads on Society for the Blind’s Access News program. Yes, grocery ads.

“People are eternally grateful for what Access News readers do, but what can you do with grocery ads? I have a little fun with it and take a little bit of license,” Walt said. “Food can take you back to people, places or things that you’ve known because families come together over the table. It draws your memories back from day one.”

The former radio personality began volunteering with Society for the Blind’s Access News program in fall 2010 to keep up his voiceover talents. He now reads grocery store ads four hours a week through Access News, which gives people with low or no vision the chance to hear audio recordings of newspapers, magazines, newsletters and print media, as well as local ads from grocery, drug, discount and department stores, 24 hours a day.

Despite offering readings for local magazines such as Comstock’s and Sactown, as well as national media such as People and Newsweek, Access News’ radio ads with Walt are some of the most popular segments.

“Most of the ads I read revolve around stories,” Walt noted. “I saw a Raley’s ad for bologna and remembered how much I liked bologna and ketchup sandwiches as a kid. Food brings you back to family Thanksgivings when aunts and uncles would come over or backyard barbecues with friends. Everybody has a story to tell and you never run out of them.”

Walt worked in radio for 10 years after visiting a radio station at age 8 that was 25 miles from his hometown in Minnesota. To this day, he can still remember the microphone and the room that seemed so big.

“Growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, there was always a radio on,” Walt remembered.  “We would listen to radio for baseball games.”

When Walt was a teenager, his dad purchased a radio station to make sure there was still a small, local station in the suburbs of Minneapolis. That’s where Walt spent the first five years of his radio career before heading to Jackson, Wyoming, and discovering the FM frequency that was considered underground radio in the 1960s.

Eventually Walt ended up in the oil business and then in the mortgage industry, but never lost his love for radio. Since 2010, his volunteer work with Society for the Blind has kept him involved in the radio industry.

“I should probably pay Society for the Blind for what I’m able to get away with,” Walt said laughing. “Sometimes it’s irreverent, and at the end of the day, listeners may not remember the price of spare ribs, but I hope they had a good time.”