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Leaping into Assistive Tech in Los Angeles

Categories: Assistive Technology, Audiobook Library, Parenting

Parents at Leapwood Elementary School enjoy the grand opening of the school's new assistive technology library This past May in Carson City, California, a brand new assistive technology lending library opened at Leapwood Elementary School -- fully equipped with Learning Ally audio textbooks, playback devices, and a treasure trove of other tools to support students with all types of disabilities. Leapwood's assistive technology lending library and three others like it in Los Angeles were germinated by federal funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Sharyn Howell, Executive Director at the Division of Special Education of the Los Angeles Unified School District, received the grant giving money at the state level to schools in need. Howell asked her division team members to come up with an innovative, sustainable proposal to utilize the funding. The district's Special Education team proposed four assistive technology lending libraries throughout the Los Angeles area, including assistive technology assessors and equipment experts who are able to loan equipment out to children who need it most. Learning Ally's involvement in the project is the result of a local grant from the Sunair Children’s Foundation, which has been a supporter since 1998. The Altadena-based foundation is devoted to children’s health and welfare, and supports causes in the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Valley areas. This most recent grant enables the four libraries to receive Learning Ally memberships and equipment for the 2011-2012 school year. Margaret Tennant of Learning Ally Along with Leapwood students,  the assistive technology library staff was present to  demonstrate what was available in the library. Teachers and parents in attendance were enthusiastic about the prospect of introducing their students in need to the technology in the library. Pictured above, Learning Ally’s Margaret Tennant, Western Regional Director of Programs and Services, is our liaison for the program. “The assistive tech lending libraries are an innovative and brilliant program that L.A.'s school district has put in place," she says. "These will solve a lot of the problems and questions that teachers have regarding assistive technology, its uses, and availability. I am excited to be partnering with Kari Tapie (L.A. District Specialist  for the OT/PT/AT Program) and her team to bring accessibility to more students.” Student getting an assistive tech demo at Leapwood ElementaryDeborah Rubenacker, the L.A. District's Director of Related Services for the Division of Special Education, expressed excitement about the new venue, and spoke of the network of four assistive technology lending libraries that have opened throughout the District. “We hope to have them become hubs for the schools in the surrounding areas, and to be able to build the capacities of the other schools through the technology and staffing that we have here. “Technology can be used for anyone who needs access to the curriculum. What we have here is the ability to provide support to children that have identified needs, and we have a large amount of children who need access to the curriculum. I am excited about this remarkable opportunity, in these times of economic uncertainty, to have something so supportable provided to each of the local areas of the District. It is very exciting that we are able to use the ARRA funds and really develop something. And I look forward to this relationship between Learning Ally and the L.A. Unified School District." -Diane Kelber

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