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Friday, October 10, 2014

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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