“Our Disabled Students Programs and Services (DSPS) Department has had an institutional membership with RFB&D / Learning Ally for more than 10 years, and they have proven to be an extremely valuable resource for us,” says Scott Ziegler, Alternate Media Specialist at Glendale Community College in California.
A visit to the College’s disabilities center reveals a treasure trove that is well-known in the disabilities community, including four counselors for academic and personal counseling; disability assessment; a state of the art center filled with assistive technology including computers with different screen readers and magnifiers; academic support and instruction; and even a “Workability Department” that helps students gain employment once they graduate. GCC counselors refer students to Scott Ziegler when they need alternative formats of matter such as textbooks, tests, and handouts. In an average year, Scott typically works with about 70 different students with reading challenges such as dyslexia, or impairments including vision or mobility.
Scott cares deeply about giving each student equal access to reading and learning - and he has his work cut out for him, as evidenced by the piles of books stacked and waiting in his office. More students are using Learning Ally books as each semester passes. “I believe that is because Learning Ally has done such a great job keeping up with the technology,” he says.
Scott estimates that he finds at least two thirds of the books he needs through the Learning Ally audio library. He also relays that students, especially those with learning disabilities, love having human-voiced books because Learning Ally’s volunteers are able to analyze the text and pronounce words correctly in context with the sentence.
He remarks that the downloadable, portable books and especially the new iOS App is "a big plus for our students…There is such versatility in the formats they can receive. We have the ability to order CDs, and we have the ability to download books. And now there’s the option of using the iPod or iPad. Sometimes we’re in a time crunch. If a student registers for services late in the semester, they can come in and, within a couple days, have a usable audio form of that book and it helps them immediately. We don’t have to wait.”
Watch a video of Scott's experience using Learning Ally's tools at the college.
One of Scott’s shining stars is Elsa Padilla, who is doing double duty as a student at GCC while concurrently studying at Los Angeles Trade Tech where she will graduate in December as an aesthetician. The bright, tenacious Elsa has a learning difference that makes it difficult for her to understand subjects in class, and in print. She was continually frustrated by academics – unable to unlock the code to learning on her own.
During a an orientation at GCC, Elsa found out about the DSPS department, which led her to Scott and Learning Ally. Listening to the subject through audio textbooks has helped Elsa’s studies enormously. She loves the portability factor of learning through listening, being able to accomplish school work no matter where she is: “I use Learning Ally’s audiobooks all the time. I use it in the car, I use it at home, and I use it when I’m visiting people. Whenever I can, I put on the headphones and study.” Elsa will transfer to a four-year college no later than 2013 to pursue her degree as a registered nurse.
Elsa has ample insights into disabilities, being mother to a special needs son. Because of Learning Ally’s audio textbooks, she has become an ambassador for the alternative textbook format: “I would absolutely recommend this to anyone who is having difficulties. Learning Ally has helped me overcome some of the challenges I have in college by providing such a great service.”
– Diane Kelber