Digital TV conversion is difficult for elderly, poor, sick and illiterate

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - James Ramsey spends a lot of time watching the television shows he likes as he sits next to his bed ridden wife. "I watch Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Phil, and what's that show where they roll that wheel by?," said the elderly man. The signals come through rabbit ear antennas. He knows about the big switch, but isn't ready for it. "By the time you get that little money, pay your bills and things you don't have much left," said Ramsey about his fixed income.

Ramsey is not alone. Meals On Wheels drivers see people every day watching televisions with old-fashioned antennas, but without converter boxes and no means of getting them. "It's the only thing they have to look at to pass the day on and on," said Curtis Upshaw, a Meals on Wheels driver. "Without that, most of them are restricted to their home or can't get up. Illness, something like that, so that's what they really depend on," he continued.

Linda Page turns up her set as a bulletin about an ice storm warning is aired. She depends on over- the-air signals for weather warnings. She got converter coupons just last week, but knows if the big switch comes next month she would be without a signal. "I have two sick parents right now. We're waiting. It's not really a necessity for us right now," said Page.

Case workers at Community Action help the elderly and disabled with energy costs, but not with television viewing. After trying to hook up her own converter box, Beverly Norris-Jones is now concerned for the clients. "I never did figure it out," Norris-Jones laughed. Then she becomes serious. Her concern about the clients she sees is no laughing manner. "It really would, in my opinion, be a problem for them to hook this box up or even understand what's going on with the box."

Shut ins, the elderly, the poor, the illiterate are all ones facing obstacles to meeting the digital TV changeover. Four more months may not make a difference, or it could be just enough time for someone to offer their help.

Norris-Jones in Nacogdoches will suggest to case workers to start asking their clients if they'll be ready for the big switch. The Nacogdoches Senior Center is planning to conduct a survey to see if their clients are ready, whenever it may happen.