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.

Sparking Corporate Buzz with Virtual Volunteering
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Excitement is growing around our new Volunteer Text Editor Program, a web-based application that enables people to volunteer for Learning Ally from a distance. Beta test groups from leading firms across the country have completed their virtual training for the program -- a new way for Learning Ally to provide members with access to charts, graphs and illustrations in textbooks that are so vital for their learning. The Volunteer Text Editor Program, a pilot web-based application, is ideal for those with time constraints and/or those who don’t live near any of our studios.  The application enables people to volunteer anytime and anywhere they have internet access—at home, at the library, or at their local coffee shop.
This technology enables volunteers to perform a crucial service for Learning Ally’s members: rendering descriptions of the charts, graphs, and illustrations in books that text-to-speech software cannot interpret. The new volunteers receive training on industry conventions, navigating the online tool, and typing descriptions so that students can have access to all book material – not just the text.
Corporate employees at all levels are forming teams, becoming a new base of remote Learning Ally ambassadors, and a great addition to our pool of volunteers. As of October, beta test groups from leading engineering, technology and accounting firms across the country have completed the virtual training program.
Greg CooperGreg Cooper of Deloitte Consulting LLP, a brand new Learning Ally volunteer (pictured at right), took the lead in pulling together a cross-divisional team in Washington DC. “To be honest, volunteering on this project has heightened my awareness to people with visual impairments who I notice making their way through the metro every day as I head to work,” says Cooper. “I’m pretty busy but this has been an opportunity to help others, even in some small way, to reach their goals.”
Learning Ally’s ability to log hours and provide custom reports eliminates the hassle for companies to manually track individual participation. “Professionals from all types of industries are flocking to this program particularly since they can, in many instances, volunteer right from their own offices,” says Leontyne Anglin, Director, Community Engagement & Strategic Partnerships. “I’m extremely pleased that many of our dedicated volunteers who have been with us for years are also getting onboard, adding to the arsenal of skills they already bring to the organization.”
Accumulated service hours also meet qualifications for some learning credits and/or match grant programs. The innovative offering has even found appeal with busy college students looking for ways to give that tap into their talents. University of Delaware senior Jason Kuhl and University of Florida sophomore Chloe Burke organized their own campus teams, becoming the first student volunteers to complete the virtual training together – although they are thousands of miles apart.
Just about everyone is pressed for time these days. For those who have wanted to volunteer but just couldn’t make their way into one of our studios; Learning Ally is making it a little easier.
Visit learningally.org/volunteer to learn more.

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