Group creates audio books for blind and those with learning disabilities

Naveen James of Glendale is among the millions of blind and learning disabled students across the nation who can borrow or download digital audio books from Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D), which has been producing audio books for 63 years.

“I rely on audio books,” said James. “With the RFB&D books, I can increase the speed of the reading itself. I can navigate to a specific chapter or page. And because the books are read by volunteers, the RFB&D audio books have a perfect, human-sounding voice, which makes it more pleasant.”

One of RFB&D’s 6,000 volunteers nationwide is Christopher Painter, a senior staff writer at Disney Online Studios, who gives two hours each week to read at the RFB&D recording studio in Hollywood as a Disney VoluntEAR.

“I saw an episode on RFB&D on Huell Howser, and thought it would be a good use of my time,” said Painter, who volunteers two hours every week. “I have incredibly bad eyesight so I was sympathetic, and I have always enjoyed reading aloud.”

While the technology and media assistance at Glendale Community College’s Alternate Media Center is only for enrolled students, the RFB&D materials are available free to any student in the nation who is blind, visually impaired or who has a learning disability that impedes the reading of printed material.

“Last year, we served 4,148 students (in Los Angeles County) with 13,001 books borrowed,” said Lea Herman, RFB&D’s Western Regional director.

Since its inception, RFB&D has made audio books accessible on vinyl records, cassettes, CDs and downloadable formats. In 2010, RFB&D made its content accessible on Mac and Windows computers.

Two months ago, a new application was released enabling its entire library of downloadable audio books to be played on Apple iOS devices, including iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

RFB&D officially changed its name to Learning Ally on Monday.

“The name change reflects the expanded mix of users with diverse learning differences that are outside of the scope of the former name,” said Andrew Friedman, Learning Ally’s president and CEO.

For more information about Learning Ally (formerly RFB&D), call (866) 732-3585 or visit

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World