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Audiobooks for Students with Disabilities: Comparing BookShare and Learning Ally

Audiobooks are wonderful learning options that make reading accessible to students with a variety of learning preferences as well as disabilities.  For some time, they have been available at a cost on sites like Audible.com where books are read by actors or authors.  However, they are often a costly choice that many can not afford.   Luckily, free options on sites like Project Gutenberg and others are wonderful, but sadly they only offer audiobooks that are in the public domain.  What about individuals with visual impairments, physical disabilities and learning disabilities that impact reading? Are there any options for this population of learners?  

Audiobooks for Individuals with Disabilities that Impact Reading:
Both BookShare and Learning Ally are two online sites that offer audiobooks for individuals with print-based disabilities.  They conduct business under the exception
to U.S. copyright law
 which
permits the availability of copyrighted text to people with qualifying
disabilities.  BookShare and Learning Ally safeguards that
only qualified individuals can use this service by requiring applicants to register as members and provide proof of disability.

Who Can Certify a Disability for Membership?

School
Affiliated:
  • Special education teacher
  • Learning
    disability specialist
  • Teacher of the visually impaired
  • School
    psychologist
  • Resource
    specialist

Medical
Professionals:
  • Family doctor
  • Physical therapist
  • Ophthalmologist
  • Optometrist
  • Neurologist
  • Psychiatrist
  • Clinical
    psychologist

Other
Certification:
  • Prior Certification
    with Learning Ally or BookShare



How Do BookShare and Learning Ally Compare?
BookShare and Learning Ally are constantly upgrading their systems and adding new materials. So the following table is up to date as of October 2014:

Where Can I Learn More?
Besides the websites of BookShare and Learning Ally, you can also check out their brochures:

BookShare Brochures:

Learning Ally Brochures: 

Each person will have their own preference when choosing a audiobook provider, however, to assure people with print disabilities have access to all the resources
they need, consider joining both BookShare
and Learning Ally.

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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Audiobooks Can Improve Word Recognition, Pronunciation and Visualization Abilities

Did you know that audiobooks or books on tape can improve word recognition, the proper pronunciation of words and also develop visualization abilities?  Passive learners may not obtain these perks, but with guided instruction on active and mindful reading, these benefits can be easily attainable.

How Can Students Reap The Benefits of Audiobooks?
For young learners to get the most out of audiobooks, they must learn to be active participants in the reading process.  They can take one of two roles.

1) Students should follow along with the text as they listen to the book:

  • If students read the text while listening to the book, they can begin to recognize whole words.  Instead of decoding or sounding out the words, the audiobook does this for them, and they can just focus on tracking the words across the page.  
  • An added plus to scanning the text while listening is students will quickly learn the proper pronunciations of sight words and other tricky words such as “chaos,” and “deoxyribonucleic acid.”  In fact, for many students they experience improvements in spelling too as they pair the proper pronunciation with the visual of the word.  

2) Students should close their eyes while listening to the audiobook and make a conscious effort to visualize the setting, characters and plot.  Learning to create a movie in ones head improves attention and will also make the process more fun and memorable.  Understand that many students that struggle with reading do not fully develop their abilities to visualize, and they may need instruction and practice with this needed skill.  If you would like to help your students to develop this ability consider purchasing Mindful Visualization for Education.

Where Can I Get Affordable Options for Audiobooks?
There are a number of sites online that offer audiobooks.  If I child has a learning disability, they can qualify to receive audiobooks through their school or learning specialist from sites such as Learning Ally and BookShare.  Furthermore, here is a website that offers 224 Places for Free Audio Books.  Below you will see a list of just a few of them:

  1. Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/
  2. Audible: http://www.audible.com/
  3. Open Culture: http://www.openculture.com/freeaudiobooks
  4. Free Classic Audiobooks: http://freeclassicaudiobooks.com/
  5. Books Should be Free: http://www.booksshouldbefree.com/
  6. LibriVox: https://librivox.org/
By helping young learners to actively use audiobooks, they can improve their reading abilities and find more joy in the process.

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.com
www.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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