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Bookshare vs. Learning Ally: The ultimate breakdown

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Here is the ultimate breakdown of Bookshare vs. Learning Ally, the assistive technology platforms for learning disabilities and visual impairments.

Bookshare vs. Learning Ally: The Ultimate Breakdown

Learners with visual impairment and learning disabilities that affect their reading skills rely on different types of support services. Text to speech (TTS) and audiobook platforms, like Bookshare and Learning Ally, allow these students to keep up with their education programs and enjoy their favorite books. Bookshare and Learning Ally have the same goal: to make reading more accessible to struggling readers. However, these two assistive technology platforms are not the same. Read on to find out what makes these two services different.

What is Bookshare?

Bookshare is a national center and an e-book library with over 1,141,000 titles, making it one of the most extensive e-book libraries in the world. The U.S. Department of Education and the Office of Special Education fund this endeavor. Bookshare’s library doesn’t only include educational books, as it also contains books for leisure and other reading materials. What makes Bookshare such a great platform for learners with visual disabilities is that it’s free for qualified students. To automatically qualify for Bookshare, you need to be legally blind or have a visual impairment or a reading/learning disability. For instance, if a young student has a perceptual disability and confuses sight words, they can also apply. However, learners with ADHD, dysgraphia, dyscalculia and auditory disabilities might not meet the program’s eligibility requirements. Students not deemed eligible must pay an annual fee, which is relatively affordable. Professionals who work in school districts can also qualify for Bookshare, like special education teachers, dyslexia specialists, school psychologists, learning disability specialists, etc.

What is Learning Ally?

Learning Ally, originally known as the Recording for the Blind (RFB) organization, is an audio textbook library with more than 80,000 audiobooks. This non-profit volunteer organization started by aiding dyslexic learners who need individual education programs (IEP). Students with visual impairment and learning disabilities can access high-quality grade-level content with Learning Ally. There are special features for elementary school, middle school, high school, and college students. Besides audiobooks, Learning Ally also offers webinars, phone consultations, and support networks for struggling learners. It’s possible to use Learning Ally as a web browser, desktop and mobile app.

Comparing Bookshare and Learning Ally

Here’s everything you need to know about Bookshare and Learning Ally, what they have in common, and what sets them apart:

Similarities

Bookshare and Learning Ally aim to help learners with various print disabilities in order to help them reach their full potential. By providing advocacy for these individuals, they also help raise awareness about visual impairment and executive functioning disabilities. What these two national centers have in common is that they use the Orton-Gillingham learning method, which is a direct, multi-sensory, one-on-one approach for students with learning disabilities. This approach is also helpful for students with issues with oral language and cognitive processes, like phonemic awareness. If you download an audio file using Bookshare, you’ll be able to listen to the text to speech book on your device. You can choose to have the text appear on a screen reader or a Braille decoding device. Learning Ally works in the same way. Similarly, both of these support programs require proof of eligibility. Moreover, Bookshare automatically approves preexisting Learning Ally members and vice versa.

Differences

These two professional development programs have some differences. To begin with, Bookshare has a far more extensive collection of texts and audiobooks. Not only that, but Bookshare’s reading materials are more diverse. Apart from school books, they also offer magazines, newspapers, children’s books, classics, etc. On the other hand, Learning Ally mainly offers textbooks and learning materials. If you want to listen to audiobooks on Bookshare, you’ll hear a computerized text to speech voice generated by the Voice Dream app. In contrast, Learning Ally offers human-read audiobooks. However, Bookshare audiobooks can be downloaded in a Braille Ready Format (BRF), whereas Learning Ally cannot. Unlike Bookshare, which offers free e-books to students, Learning Ally requires a paid subscription. Note that the three-month plan limits users to only four books, whereas the one-year plan allows for an unlimited number of books. However, Learning Ally does offer a 10-day free trial and a 14-day refund policy. Another difference is that you can use Bookshare on various devices, including computers, tablets, smartphones, and even MP3 players. In contrast, Learning Ally can only be used on computers and mobile devices.

Speechify—An excellent TTS service for easier learning

Just like Bookshare and Learning Ally, Speechify is a text to speech service that can make learning much more accessible. What’s great about Speechify is that it works with all kinds of reading materials, including PDF files, Microsoft Word files, emails, and any text you can think of. Visually impaired students or students with disabilities like dyslexia can use Speechify to listen to their learning materials with ease. Speechify also offers various customization options to improve the student’s listening experience. For instance, you can choose from a variety of voices, languages, and accents. This text to speech tool can also be used for note taking. You can use Speechify with a web browser, as a desktop app, or mobile app. If you want to see how it works, try Speechify’s free online tool today.

FAQ

Is Learning Ally good?

Learning Ally is a good assistive technology and audiobook platform that can help students with learning disabilities. Bookshare supports users who also use Learning Ally, along with the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled.

How many books are on Learning Ally?

There are roughly 80,000 audiobooks on the Learning Ally platform.

Does Learning Ally have textbooks?

Learning Ally does offer textbooks to learners with disabilities.

What is Learning Ally’s return policy?

If you don’t want to use Learning Ally’s services anymore, they offer a 14-day refund policy.

Cliff Weitzman

Cliff Weitzman

Cliff Weitzman is a dyslexia advocate and the CEO and founder of Speechify, the #1 text-to-speech app in the world, totaling over 100,000 5-star reviews and ranking first place in the App Store for the News & Magazines category. In 2017, Weitzman was named to the Forbes 30 under 30 list for his work making the internet more accessible to people with learning disabilities. Cliff Weitzman has been featured in EdSurge, Inc., PC Mag, Entrepreneur, Mashable, among other leading outlets.