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IKF Blog
Posted: Thursday, April 6, 2017

IKF volunteer records textbooks so visually impaired students can learn

Once each week, Ingleside at King Farm member Ethel goes to a studio in The District, slips on a pair of headphones and sits behind a microphone. In her gentle alto, she reads and records textbooks for students who are visually impaired or have learning disabilities such as dyslexia. 

Ethel has been volunteering with Learning Ally, a nonprofit organization formerly called Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, since 1978, when she retired as the head of the math department at a prep school. 

The organization was looking for people with expertise in various subject matter areas who could record textbooks to help students from kindergarten through graduate school and those in special programs. 

“I happened to be on a list of information for teachers of math and thought that was something I could do,” Ethel says. “With math, it makes a difference; written textbooks are a language of their own.” She started out reading math books, but now records books on a variety of subjects. 

“There are people who read medical books, books in foreign languages, law books—whatever a student needs,” she says. Several hundred volunteers participate in the program at the D.C. studio. 

Ethel reads for at least two hours per session. Recently she recorded selections from a book on preparing for the College Board’s SAT, a history book and one on an animal study. 

“They try to have you read a whole chapter so the student is not getting a change of voice,” Ethel says. “When you go into the studio, if you aren’t already set up from a previous visit, there will be choices about what’s available that needs to be read. Some need to be done sooner than others. It’s set up to make it as flexible and easy as possible, but they want to keep in mind what makes it easier for the user.” 

New readers generally have someone sitting outside the recording booth to stop recording and re-record if the reader makes a mistake. Ethel, with decades of experience, usually records alone, since she knows how to stop and correct the recording if she makes an error. 

“It’s a nice feeling to be helpful,” Ethel says. Some years ago, she was traveling by bus in the Boston area and happened to sit beside a young man who had benefited from her recordings.   

“He recognized my voice,” she says. “That was very rewarding.” 

Ethel and her husband have lived at Ingleside at King Farm for 4½ years, and she says moving into her lovely apartment was a very good decision. 

“It was time not to have to deal with maintaining the house,” she says. 

The couple knew people who already lived in the retirement community and accepted invitations to visit. 

“The location and amenities were all very attractive,” Ethel says. “We are only about 10 miles from where we lived.” They also liked that the community was in the center of the established King Farm community, within walking distance of the post office, supermarket, shops and restaurants. 

“Unlike many of these kinds of retirement places, we’re part of community activity,” Ethel says. 

Living in an engaged community also was important to Ethel. 

“Most of the residents have been active in all kinds of community service and continue to contribute,” she says. Most are well educated and interested; you can always find someone, at least a few, if not many, people with similar interests to your own. People are very friendly and welcoming, and the staff is exceptionally nice.” 

You can learn more about Ingleside at King Farm, a Continuing Care Retirement Community, and our upcoming Gardenside addition by calling 240-205-7085 or requesting more information here.


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