Learning Ally Blog: Access and Achievement


Now more than ever, people with learning and visual disabilities are flourishing in the classroom, launching productive careers and becoming assets in their communities. This blog spotlights remarkable individuals who demonstrate that having a visual or print disability is no barrier to educational success.

Reaching Out to Spanish Speakers
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Univision truck at Learning Ally studioRecently, reporter Erika Flores visited the Los Angeles studio to tell Learning Ally’s story on Univision 34-TV, the largest and most influential Spanish speaking station in the U.S.  Erika focused on her station’s community, realizing that many people go undiagnosed with learning disabilities, and could benefit by having equal access to their education. The “live remotes” aired throughout the entire state of California, causing a large spike in Learning Ally’s web traffic, which hopefully translated into more people in need finding out how to get help. To tell the story in Spanish, Erika interviewed Los Angeles studio bilingual volunteers Tony Castañares and Pippa Phillips, who served as brilliant spokespeople and advocates. Tony and Pippa bravely arrived at 4:30 a.m. along with two staff persons, and started their live remotes at 5:00 a.m. Erika asked intelligent questions about who might need Learning Ally’s service, why our audio textbooks are different, and what to do if you think you could use help. To their credit, Tony and Pippa did several short interviews between 5:00 and 7:00 a.m., having to improvise answers “on their feet,” with no editing to fall back on. Volunteers with Erika from Univision Reporter Erika was also able to interview member Henry Vasquez, Jr. (with his “supermodel” guide dog Natalia) at his home the day before visiting the Los Angeles recording studio, to weave his story into the morning’s live reports. Henry was blinded at age 19 from an accident, and was able to restart his life and go back to school thanks to Learning Ally, and is now a counselor for drug and alcohol rehabilitation. Univision camera shooting member, HenryAfter the live interviews, everyone enjoyed a hard-earned breakfast and social hour which occurred two hours before the first regular volunteers were scheduled to begin the day. We inquired about Erika’s path to journalism which began in Mexico, and found her to be as warm and friendly as she is bright. We also inadvertently discovered that Tony and Pippa had each gone to California State University Berkeley at roughly the same time, without knowing it! While both volunteers received advanced degrees, Pippa went on to become a high school Spanish teacher, while Tony went to NYU for his law degree and continues to practice financial litigation. Pippa retired from teaching school, but not as an educator—she now teaches English as a second language in her own neighborhood. True to the form of Learning Ally’s hard-working volunteers, both Pippa and Tony were raring to go back to their regular recording duties after they had already acted as early bird spokespeople. In fact, Tony went into the booth at 5:00 am and, between interviews, got in nearly two hours recording of a law book. After breakfast, multi-lingual Pippa told us that a Linguistics textbook was “calling her,” and retired to the booth to read as soon as she could. Univision 34 is the first Spanish language television station to run a feature story on Learning Ally. We are very grateful for this opportunity to reach out to the population of Spanish speakers who may not have heard about our service. Watch some of the coverage here! - Diane Kelber View a clip of the coverage:

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