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.

Southern California Art Auction Day
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Thanks to Learning Ally member Hoby Wedler for sharing this compassionate reflection of his attendance to the Southern California Art Auction. Listen to an interview with Hoby where he shares how Learning Ally made his dream of a degree in chemistry come true.

Listen to Hoby's interview:

On June 3, 2012, I was warmly invited by Learning Ally to attend the Milford Zornes Memorial Art Fundraiser in Claremont, California. It was a remarkable experience because it demonstrated to me, an avid Learning Ally member, that the community understands and cherishes the wonderful work Learning Ally does as much as I do. Nearly 100 people came out to support Learning Ally and show their appreciation for all that the organization offers. The event was moving and inspiring because I got to meet many new people, I was invited to express how much Learning Ally has helped me, and most of all it reminded me of what a wonderful organization Learning Ally is. ...this event proved to me that the public understands just how incredible this resource is for Americans with print disabilities." I was excited to meet many people for the first time who clearly care about Learning Ally and work very hard for it. Along with staff members from Learning Ally’s Princeton, NJ headquarters, were some of the Southern California staff, many of whom I had never met before June 3. To mention a few, I had the great pleasure of meeting and spending some time with Rob Young, Diane Kelber, Diane’s husband Ron Guillory and volunteer Jeff Whittle. I look forward to keeping in touch with these new friends. These people care profoundly about Learning Ally and continuously work hard to keep it thriving. In particular, Diane Kelber, who is Learning Ally Senior Communications Associate in Public Relations, does an outstanding job of helping to promote Learning Ally and ensuring that the public is well aware of the millions of lives the organization changes. Hoby with artist Dennis Shaw Diane Kelber with Hoby Wedler We also met several of the artists who were kind enough to donate their fine work to be auctioned off at this event. All the artists were certainly interesting and charismatic people. This was a wonderful opportunity for all involved to meet each other and create both personal and professional connections that will certainly last. Next, I was invited to express to the group just how much Learning Ally’s work has helped me excel in school. I’ll give a brief account of this herein:
  • I would not have been able to pursue a career in college without the support I have received from Learning Ally. I vividly recall when I first heard about Learning Ally in sixth grade. Before then, all my textbooks were either in Braille or read aloud to me. Finding high quality Braille books was difficult and though I was proficient in Braille, my reading speed was slow. When I began using Learning Ally’s audiobooks, I gained independent access to materials that were previously unavailable to me. With books in audio format, I excelled in my classes.
  • As I progressed through junior high and high school, my reliance on Learning Ally increased. Being able to read books as fast as my sighted peers and comprehend what I read allowed me to move to the top of my high school class. Moreover, having a faster reading medium gave me more time to think and digest the material I was learning. As a college student, I am asked to read about 400 pages per week. Without books from Learning Ally, it would be impossible to keep up with the demanding workload. When studying history, books assigned for classes or used for research are often rare. However, Learning Ally has had nearly all of these titles available for me to use. If I choose a book for a research project, for instance, I want to be able to read it when I choose. Without Learning Ally, I would have to ask someone to read the book aloud to me or find the book in Braille. Learning Ally gives me independence and allows me to read books without having to ask for help.
  • In chemistry and mathematics, many books are loaded with figures which are too time consuming to transcribe into Braille. This means that I have to hear the book read aloud and have the figures described. When I first started studying chemistry, I could not imagine that Learning Ally would have the advanced chemistry books I needed and I thought I would rely solely on live readers. Again, Learning Ally surprised me and made me much more independent by having nearly all the chemistry books I needed with excellent descriptions of figures. These figure descriptions are a remarkable resource for blind people.
  • As a chemistry tutor, I rely heavily on skimming textbooks to remind myself of the material. None of my textbooks are in Braille and without Learning Ally I would be dependent on someone to review the material with me. Also, I bring Learning Ally books with me when I’m tutoring. If a student has a question about a figure or a problem in the book, I simply ask the student for the page number, enter it into my player, and hear the exact material the student sees, thanks to Learning Ally. Since I want to teach chemistry in the future, I am confident that I will rely on Learning Ally’s recordings throughout my career.
Ultimately, this wonderful and fulfilling event demonstrated actively to me and everyone present that Learning Ally is a tremendous resource. The generous support of all the donors at the event reminded me how much I rely on their generous support to receive services. Fundamentally, I say with conviction that I would not have been able to turn my dreams into realities without Learning Ally and this event proved to me that the public understands just how incredible this resource is for Americans with print disabilities. -Henry "Hoby" Wedler

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