As promised in my Talking Audiobooks interview, today’s discovery is centered around Learning Ally.
I made this discovery a few months ago, but wanted to gather enough information before sharing it with you. This is the kind of discovery that has the potential to change lives.
Learning Ally is a service that provides audiobooks and recorded materials for individuals with disabilities that prevent them from reading print. Learning Ally was formerly known as Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, but (as the name change implies) this service can benefit individuals with other disabilities as well.
Before I lose some of you, think about those around you. Even if you aren’t in Learning Ally’s specific audience, someone you know may be.
What qualifies as a “print disability”?
According to Learning Ally, anyone with a “print disability” can qualify for their service. They define a “print disability” as anything that prevents someone from being able to read physical books. Obvious examples include visual impairments (i.e. blindness) and learning disabilities (i.e. dyslexia). However, certain physical disabilities may also qualify. For example, if severe arthritis or another physical condition makes it hard for you (or someone you know) to hold a physical book, it could qualify as a print disability.
I say could qualify because Learning Ally requires documentation to determine eligibility, such as a physician’s note detailing the nature and extent of the disability. There are multiple avenues to determining eligibility. Learning Ally allows certification of a disability to be determined by persons in your community (i.e. an ophthalmologist, vocational rehabilitation counselor, special education instructor, family doctor, physical therapist, or disability services counselor). You can also upload or send in an IEP, if you have one.
What types of books do they have?
They currently have an audiobook selection of over 80,000 titles. They also have the ever elusive audiobook for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Their audiobooks are recorded by real narrators and can be played on iOS and android devices, as well as on assistive technology devices.
Not only does Learning Ally provide recreational listening, they also make textbooks and other instructional materials available for individuals with disabilities. This information is especially relevant for those who would like to or are currently attending post-secondary schooling (college). As mentioned above, the school’s disability services counselor is qualified to certify individuals with print disabilities as eligible for a Learning Ally membership. If a membership with Learning Ally could benefit you or someone you know as a student, I sincerely urge you to investigate their services.
What does it cost?
Learning Ally charges its individual members an annual fee of $135. That breaks down to $11.25 per month. According to its website, membership fees are used to support Learning Ally, along with donations. A financial assistance program is available to qualifying individuals, which could result in the payment or partial payment of membership fees.
Learning Ally also partners with certain states to provide its services to designated school districts. Click here to find out if your state has partnered with Learning Ally.
More Than Books
Learning Ally is an empowering voice in the disability community. They hold seminars and webinars for parents, teachers, advocates, and individuals. They also provide tools and programs for personal and institutional growth. If you’re the parent, guardian, or educator of individuals with print disabilities, I encourage you to look into Learning Ally as well. As of the 2015/16 school year, there were approximately 10,000 schools using Learning Ally. Although that number is incredible, I think it should be much higher.
How can I help?
Even if none of this directly applies to you, I still believe that those in the book community have a moral obligation to support readers and listeners of all abilities. By extension, shouldn’t we also support an
organization aiming to make reading more accessible? This is one of the primary reasons I’m such a strong supporter of the audiobook format. Learning Ally has several ways volunteers can become involved in their organization through the recording process and in the community.
Whether you’re a narrator who would like to volunteer your voice, an advocate for the disability community hoping to make a difference, or simply a book enthusiast looking to spread the word about Learning Ally, you can learn more about pitching in here (I’ve already done so!). Of course, boosting this post would also help spread awareness and hopefully reach someone (or several someones) in need of reading assistance.