Student with Dyslexia and Marathon Runner who is Blind Team Up with Learning Ally to Give the Gift of Reading to Students with Visual and Learning Disabilities

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Two young women with disabilities are raising money for crucial services to benefit students with dyslexia, visual impairment and other print disabilities - and are challenging others to join their team

11 year old dyslexic student Gabriela Shulman says Learning Ally changed her life. She is raising money so students who still struggle can also receive the gift of reading through Learning Ally.

Learning Ally gave me the gift of reading, and I want to give that gift to other kids like me.

More than 10 million students in the United States struggle to read the printed word, due to disabilities like dyslexia or blindness/visual impairment.

For nearly 70 years, one national nonprofit organization has been helping students and individuals with visual and learning disabilities. Learning Ally, formerly known as Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, started in the attic of the New York Public Library to help injured WWII soldiers pursue college. It now serves over 230,000 visually impaired and dyslexic students in nearly 10,000 schools across the US, through their library of more than 80,000 human volunteer narrated audiobooks, and additional advocacy programs and services for students, families and school districts.

Now two remarkable young women, one who has dyslexia and one who is blind - who both found help through Learning Ally - are passionately taking steps to raise money for the organization that helped them find success, so they can give the gift of reading to students who still struggle. Their goal is to inspire others to join their team and donate to Learning Ally.

11-year-old NJ student Gabriela Shulman - who has dyslexia - struggled to read and to fit in for years. School was torture for her, and reading seemed like it would be out of reach. Gabriela's Mom, Darcy Shulman, began looking for help for her daughter; and according to Darcy, "That's when we found Learning Ally. The human-narrated audiobooks changed her life. She has become a reader. She has become confident. She has become excited about books. Learning Ally has also changed me, I am no longer afraid for her.” Gabriela added, “I can read everything my classmates and friends are reading and I never feel left out.”

Gabriela feels so strongly about the benefits of Learning Ally that she wants every child with a reading disability to find hope like she did. She spent her summer raising money for the organization, and has set up a fundraising page, so others may join her team, and help her continue to raise money for students in need. "Learning Ally gave me the gift of reading," said Gabriela, “and I want to give that gift to other kids like me.”

25 year-old Abigail Lanier has not let her blindness stop her from doing one single thing in her life. Originally from North Carolina, she now lives and works in New York City. She is joined on her daily commute to work by her service dog, Kit.

Abigail is also an accomplished triathlete and endurance runner, with the NYC and Boston Marathons under her belt. She recently completed her latest triathlon and earlier in the month, finished her latest 26.2 mile marathon in New York City.

Abigail, who has been blind since the age of four, began using Learning Ally in college and felt so passionately about the programs and services the organization provides, that she herself joined the organization in 2015. She now serves as the Mentor Coordinator for the Learning Ally College Success Program, a unique mentorship and research based curriculum program designed specifically for students attending institutions of higher education who are blind or visually impaired. The Learning Ally College Success Program comes at no cost to enrolled students, through the generosity of foundations and private donors.

"For some of our students, their mentors are the first successful blind people that they’ve met," said Abigail. “This program is effective because students are able to connect with a person who has been there and done it."

“Being an endurance athlete who is visually impaired, I find it important to support students with print disabilities. Having access to print material in other ways helps people like me be independent and feel good about ourselves. The money that people donate and raise for Learning Ally and our students, helps to create not only the audiobooks that they offer, but student empowerment programs. Learning Ally's College Success Program helps students like me get through college, move on to careers and access print in a way that they wouldn’t be able to otherwise.

Learning Ally and the students, parents and teachers the organization serves would like to thank each of its donors, volunteers and partners for their generosity and service to the organization. To join Gabriela, Abigail and to help more of the millions of students with learning disabilities and visual impairment with the programs and services necessary for their success, please visit Learning Ally's donation page.

About Learning Ally

Founded in 1948, Learning Ally supports K-12, college and graduate students, veterans and lifelong learners – all of whom read and learn differently due to dyslexia, blindness or visual impairment, and other disabilities. Through its extensive community events and support programs, Learning Ally enables parents, teachers and specialists to help students thrive and succeed. The organization hosts live and virtual events for families and teachers; provides instructive webinars led by experts as well as peer-to-peer sessions led by students; and professional development workshops for educators.

Learning Ally’s accessible collection of 82,000 human-narrated audio textbooks and literature titles can be downloaded by students using their smartphones and tablets, and is the largest of its kind in the world. As a 501(c)3 nonprofit, Learning Ally is partially funded by grants from state and local education programs, and the generous contributions of individuals, foundations and corporations. For more information, visit https://LearningAlly.org.

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