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HandsOn the Community: “Talking Books” a Major Ally to Disabled Student Learning

January 24, 2012

Jaqui (left) works with volunteer Kelly to record a sports psychology textbook.

When Jaqui Bradley and her fellow veterans returned from war in the 1970s, many used their GI Bills to obtain college degrees that eventually led to careers. Yet not all of the veterans were so lucky—a fact has never been forgotten by Jaqui. “I saw firsthand guys coming back from Vietnam blinded by shrapnel or whatever,” she recalls. “Back then if you couldn’t read, it was tough to go to school and I thought that was unfair. I benefitted myself from the GI Bill and higher education, so I was like, ‘I want others to be able to benefit from this too.’” Many years passed before Jaqui discovered a way to make a difference in the lives of the visually impaired. Now, she leads a program that strives to make higher education a possibility for individuals of all levels of vision.

Each month, Jaqui and a group of dedicated volunteers meet at a small recording studio in Upland to create audio recordings of several textbooks through a program they call “Talking Books.” Operated by Learning Ally (formerly Recording for the Blind and Dylsexic), this studio is one of several working across the United States to produce a catalog of audio books and audio learning opportunities for students with visual disabilities. Since 2007, volunteers with the Talking Books program have recorded over 300 hours of high-quality readings of textbooks, helping students across the country learn about such diverse topics as architecture, physics, sociology, and much more.

As Modern Plumbing demonstrates, not all books recorded through the program are on traditional academic subjects.

As most of the volunteers will readily attest, Jaqui’s enthusiasm for Talking Books is infectious. Some, such as two-year ongoing volunteer Karen, are now so enamored with the program that they return every week. Yet as Karen is quick to point out, there are many other advantages to participating in the program as well. One, she argues, is the very personal nature of recording a book. “What I love about this is that you come in, you get in the booth, and you’re really owning the work that you’re doing for the folks who will benefit from the reading,” she says. Additionally, the program is an attractive opportunity for individuals who enjoy learning while they volunteer. “I’m learning so much new stuff every week,” Karen continues. “One week I’m reading a nursing book, the next I’m reading about helicopters that fly people in emergencies. It’s just really cool!”

Volunteers Karen (left) and Sandra work together to record a textbook on world civilizations.

Talking Books is always looking for new volunteers to try out their program. If you like to read, edit, learn, or if you are simply a fan of helping others, Jaqui believes you’ll have a blast working with the Talking Books program. Even if you don’t fit these categories, she hopes you’ll consider participating in the program. “‘Just give it a chance,’ is what I like to tell people,” says Bradley. “You might find a part of the program that you really enjoy that you never would have thought before. I hope you’ll sign up on HandsOn at least once to give a great program a chance.”

For more information on the Talking Books program, including its exact meeting dates and location, please see the calendar of events on the HandsOn Inland Empire website:

http://www.handsoninlandempire.org/HOC__Volunteer_Opportunity_Calendar_Page

For information on how to to transform your own passion into a volunteer program, please contact Bryan Nakawaki [bnakawaki@ieuw.org].

This article is part of an ongoing series of posts highlighting volunteer opportunities in the Inland Empire. Stay tuned for many exciting future installments!

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