Students with Visual and Learning Disabilities Thrive with Accessible Audiobooks from Learning Ally
Students with Visual and Learning Disabilities Thrive with Accessible Audiobooks from Learning Ally

Categories: Education, Technology

Little boy listening to one of Learning Ally's audio books on a CD
By Guest Blogger Doug Sprei, Director of Media Relations, Learning Ally

For students who are blind, visually impaired or have a physical or learning disability, Learning Ally provides the nation’s largest online accessible audio library of core curriculum textbooks and literature, helping them achieve academic success and prepare for the workplace.

Founded in 1948 as Recording for the Blind (RFB), the organization’s original mission was to enable blinded World War II Veterans to attend college. Over time, RFB grew to serve people with learning differences such as dyslexia, and in the mid 1990s, was renamed Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic (RFB&D).

In 2011, RFB&D was transformed into Learning Ally, reflecting its mission to serve a complete spectrum of individuals for whom reading is a barrier to learning. Currently, Learning Ally serves more than 200,000 K-12, college and graduate students, as well as Veterans and working professionals. 75 percent of its members have a learning disability, such as dyslexia.


Produced in high-quality digital format, Learning Ally audiobooks can be accessed on mainstream devices like the Apple iPad and iPhone, as well as MP3 players, Mac and PC computers and CDs. More than 6,000 volunteers nationwide help record and process the books, and thousands of new titles are added annually. Currently, the collection of more than 69,000 textbooks and literature spans most major publishers and offers reading material for K-12 through post-graduate school.

By providing state of the art, accessible audio textbooks to students, Learning Ally removes a major obstacle to their success in the classroom: access to the printed word. The books provide extensive navigation, bookmarking and control features that are critical to successful studying.  Students tap into the general education curriculum and stay on top of assignments in step with their peers. Countless educators and parents point to Learning Ally as a proven resource that relieves stress and saves time for students facing an overwhelming amount of reading and studying material, adding that young learners build confidence and self-esteem as their comprehension, performance and grades improve. 

Students with a certified print disability are eligible for an Individual Membership at an affordable rate, allowing them to work on assignments at home as a supplement to their school’s membership. Institutional Memberships are available for schools and districts to provide accommodations for their students with IEP and 504 plans. Such programs can include memberships, equipment, training and support.

Most recently, Learning Ally has expanded into custom projects, creating accessible content to meet the needs of a wide range of commercial clients and public sector organizations. In addition to offering top quality accessible digital audio media, our custom projects team provides solutions in braille, large print and electronic text. They are also experienced in consultative services and creating accessible information to fit needs and applications meeting 504 and 508 requirements.

We feature the latest digital audio software and mastering equipment, backed up by more than 150 voice recording stations in 20 studios located across the country, and have thousands of experienced narrators. Our trained narration teams have professional expertise in more than 90 specialized subject areas and more than 50  foreign languages.  Examples of some of the materials we convert include:

  • educational materials
  • standardized testing
  • instructional and marketing materials
  • annual reports, legal documents, menus
  • foreign languages
  • scientific and mathematical notation
  • creation of narratives for graphs, charts and pictures

In short, Learning Ally has experienced and extensive audio recording resources along with  subject matter experts enabling us to address the most complex and challenging educational materials. Our list of clients is expansive and includes McGraw Hill, Pearson, Samsung, The Museum of the City of New York, the states of Texas, Ohio and Oregon; Kaiser Permanente, Virginia Tech and Weight Watchers. Drawing upon our 60-plus year history of serving individuals with learning differences and reading disabilities, we are the nation’s leader in the design and creation of accessible content.

For information regarding custom project services, contact John Churchill at (732) 551-1589 or Bernice Shapiro at (240) 778-5769.  Visit http://learningally.org/ for more information.

12 Responses to Students with Visual and Learning Disabilities Thrive with Accessible Audiobooks from Learning Ally

  1. Victoria says:

    This is certainly a problem I need to do more research into, thanks for the post.

  2. Samantha J. says:

    I have a 12 year old learning disabled son. I have recently used the services of a book scanning company with an audio conversion service to get his schoolwork converted to MP3. It was a breeze and quite affordable – highly recommended.

  3. Moris says:

    Love this post. You are doing so much for special people. This post is really helpful for many people, especially for different organizations who are working in this field.

  4. KL Love says:

    I think Learning Ally provides people with visual or cognitive impairments, who would otherwise be left without, the opportunity to have access to reading materials. I used a service in college and grad school called AMAC to convert my textbooks to PDF files. PDF files have a wider range of options for copying/pasting text and also allows people with low vision the chance to magnify the material. PDF files have a standard reading option which doesn’t require special software to use. I think Learning Ally is a great option for leisure reading. However, academics can require strenuous activities, like performing math functions and studying graphs.
    The ability to go through cells of graphs via PDF makes completing math and statistics functions much easier than the audio files of Learning Ally. I had a tough time getting my grad school (Mercer Univ, Macon, Ga) to pay for the AMAC membership.
    If you’re interested I can help you learn more about AMAC for academic use. School is sometimes tough with a disability and I want everyone to have the resources necessary to excel.

    • Marana says:

      Please contact me regarding how can I learn more about AMAC for academic use. Yes, school is tough on those with a disability. I’m in community college, and need help! I would appreciate you sharing with me any resources you can so I can excel.

      Thank you,
      Marana

    • Fofohato says:

      I wholeheartedly agree that online learning should not be place-based and should be available to ALL students, not just those enrolled in traditional, brick and mortar schools. Here, in NC, we have the NC Virtual Public School, what our Governor describes as a whole new world of educational opportunity for North Carolinians, no matter where we call home. Apparently, this wonderful opportunity is not for all of us, though, because those of us that have decided to lawfully school our children at home have, until recently, been barred from the system. (How’s that for open access? Why should it matter whether the student is public, private or homeschooled? We all pay taxes to support the system.) Just recently, NCVPS opened up enrollment to homeschoolers under a school’s “visiting student policy”, but my children are not visitors to a physical building (we’re talking “online classes” right?), plus, the state wants to charge us exorbitant fees for courses. Florida has been running a virtual public school for years, which is free to residents, whether public-schooled or otherwise. I fail to understand NC’s “lack of vision” with regard to this issue. If the Governor truly cared about the students, ALL of the students of NC as she claims, then she would give us all access.

  5. EKL says:

    My son, currently a learning ally subscriber, has a processing LD. The most overt signal that he needed testing was his reading cadence. I would like the inclusion of the Kindle products in your playback options. My interest is that he can read along with the nicely recorded books you currently offer. Thank you in advance for considering this platform.

  6. Marie D. says:

    The name change was an appallingly bad choice. It is not reflective of what the entity does and should be more descriptive. The RFBD name was descriptive and inclusive.
    The service does not seem to be as good as under RFBD name.

  7. Federico P. says:

    Give the benefits to the blind, provide to all facilities for a good education, god bless you to all, and I love you to all, always poor.

  8. Gloria C. says:

    I am currently taking care of a 46 year old male, doing only his grocery shopping of foods that require microwave cooking & cold foods. Clean maybe once a month. I’m interested in a program (if available) for companionship like outings of sorts for mentally challenged individuals. He is on SSI for sczophrania (sp), he takes his meds daily, I take him to his appts. His meds come through the mail. Would like to get assistance for hot meals & visits. Don’t know where to look. Someone please point me in the right direction.

  9. Titi s. says:

    Students with learning disabilities have something to learn and use special treatments and techniques. Total physical response and visual aids for hearing impairment students.

  10. Sarah says:

    Very informative for all special people. I would also mention Kindle, a device by amazon that can read pdf files. I think it would be helpful for special people. We speak about technology and definitely if anyone is browsing our site – then our site would be readable by special people – because we have used some tags that can be read by devices.