What is assistive technology?

Assistive technology is any kind of technology and/or tool that can be used to enhance the functional independence of a person with a disability. Often, for people with disabilities, accomplishing daily tasks such as communicating with others, going to school or work, or participating in activities can be a challenge. Assistive Technology (AT) devices are tools to help overcome those challenges and enable people living with disabilities to enhance and have access to a quality of life, that may otherwise not be known, and lead more independent lives.

The mission of this blog is to serve as a voice of a constant researcher in the field of educational and assistive technologies so that the best products, strategies and services may be located easily, in hopes that they will then be delivered, taught and used to better the lives of people with disabilities.


Audiobook Resources

There are so many benefits of using children's audiobooks. Audiobooks can improve literacy, including word recognition, the proper pronunciation of words and by developing the ability to visualize.

There are many resources for children's books that can be accessed online or transferred to a portable on-the-go type of systems such as an MP3 player, smartphone or tablet.  Audiobooks are great in the car, in the evening when children are going to bed, to support that book report that needs to be completed for struggling readers...As The Story Home puts it, "you will find all the ways to bring stories to your active lifestyle, allowing you and your children to access quality listening entertainment during cross-town errands, vacation trips, commutes, in waiting rooms and that very special quiet time before sleep. Whether you need a soothing journey, a magic moment, or a bit of wisdom, The Story is always just a click away."

Audiobooks can actually be "read" online, in many cases, at no charge. The activity helps develop listening skills and can increase comprehension and reasoning ability, not to mention increasing sight word recognition when accompanied by the text. Think how powerful it could be if parents listen with their children. Parents can provide questioning to help their kids
  • learn to predict what will happen next,
  • review the sequence of events in the plot, and
  • examine the reasons a character acted the way he/she did.
All of these skills are valuable academic skills.  

Building auditory skills and the ability to visualize in today's world of visual media is becoming a lost art. Audiobooks are a wonderful support for struggling readers but a powerful media for all. Have you ever listened to audiobooks while commuting or on a road trip? It is a great adventure to share with your traveling partners. A family read-along is a powerful and fun car adventure. As a frequent commuter, I can tell you that a great podcast series can literally take you away from the grind of a commute. Completing household chores while being plugged in can make you hope the chores never end! (Well, almost.) There have been times when I have sat in the garage because it is just too good to leave.

Stories are accessible online through free downloads or streaming audio. Free audio downloads can be downloaded and played in the car, or on personal media players. Check out these wonderful ways to access your library:

  • Check your local library! More and more libraries are offering a larger library of audiobooks. If yours is not, let them know this is an interest. The more they hear this request, the more they will put their resources towards this area. If your local library has a subscription to OverDrive (and ours does!) then this is a great place to find free audio books of recent fiction and non-fiction books including best-sellers. You check out these audiobooks just like you would a library book and they'll be returned at the end of the loan period (usually 2 weeks). Besides free audiobooks, OverDrive also has free ebooks, movies, and music. (You can often sign up for libraries in other areas also instead of only your local library. Some areas offer more than others.)
  • Open eBooks is an app containing thousands of popular and award-winning titles that are free for children from in-need households. These eBooks can be read without checkouts or holds. “The Open eBooks app uses next generation eBook technology to make reading on your smartphone or tablet simple and convenient. It is designed to make browsing, accessing, and reading eBooks simple and easy.” ​Educators, program leaders and librarians who work with in-need youth in libraries, schools, shelters, clinics, out-of-school time programs, military family programs, early childhood programs, and other capacities can access Open eBooks by registering with First Book.
  • Your public library at your fingertips: “hoopla is a groundbreaking digital media service offered by your local public library that allows you to borrow movies, music, audiobooks, ebooks, comics and TV shows to enjoy on your computer, tablet, or phone – and even your TV! With no waiting, titles can be streamed immediately, or downloaded to phones or tablets for offline enjoyment later. We have hundreds of thousands of titles to choose from, with more being added daily. hoopla is like having your public library at your fingertips. Anytime. Anywhere.”

Free audiobooks resources online:
  • AOL Kids offers stories for the young that are online picture books read to the child. Words are highlighted while reading.
  • Audible Kids is a website full of popular books. Some are read aloud by the actor who plays Gordon on Sesame Street, Roscoe Orman. Although many of the audio books presented by Audible Kids cost a small free, they do offer at least nine free audio stories. They also offer books for a low 99 cents for a download.
  • AudioBooksforFree.com - adventures, detectives, horrors, classics, children, non-fictions, philosophy, etc. for you to download and enjoy.  Every audiobook produced and recorded by professional actors/narrators and experienced directors. No computerized text-to-voice conversions have been used. L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz and Julius Lester’s The Tales of Uncle Remus are included here, along with dozens and dozens of others.
  • Audio Stories for Kids is an excellent source for no-cost audio books for youngsters. It is UK-based, similar to Storynory, and contains over 200 kids' audio MP3 stories, all for free. (Some of the recordings include sound effects as well.) Audio Stories has one of the most extensive lists of free children's reading along with books online. There are over 300 available titles along with games, coloring pages, old radio recordings and other interesting resources. The selection includes fables, classics, fairy tales and contemporary stories.
  • BandN Storytime Online has 16 classic books read by the author of the book.
  • Barefoot Books is a children’s book publisher who is known for world stories and cultural tales with positive messages. Enjoy classic tales, myths, and legends with a global bent.
  • BookBox has downloadable Flash stories which are digitally narrated with simple animation and streaming text across the bottom - you see whole phrases, and the letters go from white to red as the words are spoken (called 'SLS' - same language subtitling).  The stories are international in flavor and come in several languages. You can preview the stories for free so you could see if it fits your needs. The illustrations are beautiful and the animation simple.Though BookBox stories are primarily focused on reading skills’ development and language learning for all children, they also contain several features that help children with special needs.
  • Book Pals (Performing Artists for Literacy in Schools) is a national program administered by the nonprofit Screen Actors Guild Foundation. BookPALS help children learn to LOVE books by bringing the talents of performer volunteers into classrooms, hospitals, shelters, and other venues. A perfect match! Check out their video library of books being read.
  • Book Pop is a smaller resource but has very good stories for younger readers who like bright colors and easy to read words. This is not the site to find well-known authors or classic tales.  
  • Books Should be Free offers Free Public Domain Audiobooks and eBooks.
  • It's easy to find a free audiobook you want to download at Books Should Be Free. You can view the audio books by the categories Top 100, Children, Fiction, Fantasy, and Mystery as well as more than a dozen other genres.Download books for iPhone, Android, Kindle and mp3 players. Be sure to check out their horror and ghost stories! It's so easy to find an audio book here thanks to the categories and large photos that I had to include in the list.
  • Candlelight Stories is an independent website aimed at adults but older teens might appreciate this too. Subjects include literature, film, games, art, poetry, children's stories, free expression, politics, and audio. It can get hugely opinionated but it sure has fun doing it. Use your judgment and enjoy.
  • CCProse presents classic literature in video format. It syncs human voice audio with text. (Check out their YouTube Channel.)
  • Eduscapes is a great resource that links to a variety of reading materials, including chapter books, interactive stories, and more. There are designated books for several ages as well.
  • Epic! is a subscription-based site ($4.99 a month but free for educators) which allows you to access books for students 12 and under. 1000's of Early Readers, Chapter Books, Non-Fiction, Read-to-Me Audio, and More with individual profiles with Personalized Recommendations Based on Reading Level and Interests. Can be used on on Desktops and Laptops (Including Chromebooks), iOS and Android Devices.
  • International Children’s Digital Library, "A library for the world's children," this site contains over 4,000 books in 61 languages. Explore their growing library that is broken down into easily accessed categories by age and interest.
  • Just Books Read Aloud books can be chosen by length, author, narrator, or category. It can be added to the iPad. There are no advertisements or other revenue generating opportunities on the site. It is compatible with the JAWS screen reader. This is a very rich site.
  • Kids Learn Out Loud features free podcasts and audio and video resources for kids and teens to learn from. Most audio titles can be downloaded in digital formats such as MP3 and most video titles are available to stream online. The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis, is included in this free collection, as are Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell; Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel DeFoe; and many others.  Speeches, presidential addresses, podcasts, and more are included on this packed, resource-rich site.
  • Learn Out Loud has a collection of over 2500 free audio books and other educational audio and video files. Learn Out Loud's collection includes readings of famous literature as well as audio and video files of famous speeches and news reports. The collection is sorted into sixteen categories which can then be sorted alphabetically or by popularity.Learn Out Loud is a gigantic collection of free audio books, lectures, and educational podcasts. Here, you can find all sorts of interesting content divided into categories as diverse as Arts and Entertainment, Business, Sports, or Travel. You can also filter your search results by Audio Download, Online Audio, Most Popular, Alphabetical, Author Name, Average Member Rating, or Featured.
  • LibriVox has a huge selection of free audio books that are recordings of volunteers who have read chapters from books that are in the public domain. You can find a free audio book by searching by title, author, or status. You can also browse all the titles in the catalog or view only the most recent audio books. The free audio books can be downloaded directly from LibriVox or you can subscribe to them as podcasts.
  • Listen and Read for early learners has 54 nonfiction read-along books. Listen and Read activities tell the story through words, images, and sound. You can use these online activities in a variety of ways, from one-on-one instruction using a computer or tablet to class instruction on an interactive whiteboard.
  • Light up your brain has a small selection of approximately 20 audio books and interesting games for children to download. This site provides a text section of the story and an available audio to play in the background.The stories on this site include classics such as The Velveteen Rabbit, Jack and the Beanstalk, The Little Mermaid, The Emperor's New Clothes and Cinderella.
  • Lit 2 Go offers a large selection of fiction stories and poems available as free downloads. The total appears to be at least 200 titles. The collection can be searched by author or title.
  • LoudLit.org is a good place to find free audio recordings of famous works of literature. What makes LoudLit unique and useful for teachers is the option of reading the text online while listening to the reading of the text.
  • MightyBook offers beautifully illustrated, Flash animated, with words highlight as they’re spoken or sung to make it easier for kids to follow along. (Ages 2-8)
  • Mother Goose Club has a number of rhymes and songs that provide audio support for the text.
  • National Geographic Kids provides 37 non-fiction magazines for kids with audio available that will read the words to your students.
  • New Fiction has unique and fictional audiobooks that they term "iSoaps." You won't find these audiobooks anywhere else and they are wonderful if you are looking for something new and a little bit different. Its iSoap format resembles a traditional radio play where a full cast of voice talent records a script or screenplay rather than a single narrator reading the entire story to an audience.
  • New Fixtion "A unique library of audiobooks that are performed by multiple actors. Consider them modern-day radio dramas. Just click on a story and get it delivered to your browser, iPhone, iPad, or Android phone." A unique and fictional audiobooks that they term "iSoaps." You won't find these audiobooks anywhere else and they are wonderful if you are looking for something new and a little bit different. It's iSoap format resembles a traditional radio play where a full cast of voice talent records a script or screenplay rather than a single narrator reading the entire story to an audience.This is for the older "kids".
  • Night Light Stories a podcast featuring original children's stories. Written by a husband and wife team, these narrations were brought to life while sitting by the friendly glow of a child's night light. We invite you now to share these stories with your own family, at night, in the morning, or anytime ... anywhere. You can download and listen to the stories for free on the blog, iTunes, or any mobile device.
  • Old Time Radio Nostalgia are super family-friendly, and the sound effects are fantastic. We’ve listened to hours and hours of old radio shows. It’s all good, old-fashioned fun!
  • Online Audio Stories presents "Great Short Stories Online. Welcome to the magical kingdom of fairy tales, classic books for children and kids’ poems."
  • Open Culture provides hundreds of free audio books, mostly classics, to your MP3 player or computer. You’ll find great works of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. This would be best used with older students and adults. The contents of the collection is quite impressive as it includes works by, among others, Austen, Dickens, Melville, Poe, Voltaire, and Rousseau. All of the audiobooks can be played on your computer or mp3 player. Open Culture is a portal to the finest educational and cultural resources on the Web. They've got a very respectable collection of great audio books, mostly classics, available for free in a variety of downloadable formats from all over the Web. Books are organized alphabetically by author's last name by genre: Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Poetry.
  • Oxford Owl is a collection of free children’s ebooks for kids ages 3-11.  Each ebook has accompanying audio so that students can choose to read along or read independently.  The books also have activities that focus on reading comprehension and story recall.  There are several options for filtering the ebooks so that students can find just the right story including by age, by book type, and by series.  In addition to the ebooks on the site, you can find fun activities and recommendations for each age group, games to print and play, and online games with characters from the books and site.
  • PlayTime Books states:  Listen to 85,000 Audiobooks on Your iPod, Mobile Phone, IPad, MP3 Player or Amazon Kindle Reader. You can get their whole set for $10.
  • Podiobooks has over 70,000 free audiobooks over every subject you can think of and includes audio books for adults and kids.You can download the free audiobooks directly from the website or receive them like podcasts from an RSS feed. You don't need to register to get a free audio book but if you do, and registration is free, you'll get a custom podcast feed that will make enjoying your book a whole lot easier.
  • Project Gutenberg has audiobooks that are human-read and also some that are computer-generated. These are also public domain books that have been turned into audiobooks that are now available for free for anyone who's interested. The easiest way to find an audiobook here is to browse through the authors and titles. You can also view them by languages.
  • Reading Planet lets you enjoy reading and singing along to these fun, animated stories. (You need to have a plug-in called Flash installed on your computer to view the stories.)
  • Read Print offers an online book library with over 8,000 titles that can be read using any free text reader (tested with Natural Reader).
  • Read to Me offers children's storybooks read aloud by celebrities and storytellers.  This online reading program to develop literacy in children is fun!  Watch books and download lesson plans for learning.
  • Rong-Chang suggests easy readers for Adult ESL Beginners (also great for older children). 200 free stories. These stories come with audio if you want to listen and read along. It does not highlight the words.
  • Starfall Books offers 42 themed books.
  • StoryBird is artful storytelling. Make, Read and Share Visual Stories.
  • StoryNory has published a new audio story every week since November 2005. Storynory is an online treasure-trove of free audio stories. This is a large selection of fairy tales (Hans Christian Anderson, Brothers Grimm), classics (Alice in Wonderland, A Christmas Carol), education stories (Greek myths, Bible stories), original new tales(Tim The Tadpole's Exams, Bertie's Car, Sadie's Broken Heart) and stories targeting junior readers.Every week, Storynory publishes a free audiobook just for kids. The audiobooks here include original stories, fairy tales, classic stories, educational books, and some small stories for the very little ones. The audiobooks here can be downloaded or streamed directly from the website.
  • Story Shares is a non-profit organization devoted to inspiring reading practice and improving literacy skills. Thier library is "full of Relevant Reads—books that are both compelling and approachable for struggling teen and young adult readers." They come in print and allow for audio to be used. 
  • Stone Soup offers a place for your students to publish their stories and read them and/or a place to listen to stories read by other students.
  • Stories Podcast performs a new story for your children every week. The stories range from retellings of fairy tales like Snow White to classic stories like Peter Rabbit and even completely original works. Everything is G rated and safe for all ages. The perfect kids podcast for imaginative families. Whether you’re driving with your children or just want to limit your kids’ screen time, Stories Podcast delivers entertainment that kids and parents alike will love.
  • Story Home provides original and classic children’s audio stories, to delight and inspire children and their families.
  • StoryLineOnline includes full visuals of each page. The books change often so be sure to revisit this site and enjoy all that it has to offer. The stories are read by Screen Actors Guild members using flash movies to display the books as they are read. There are also fun activities and lesson ideas to go along with each book.
  • Tar Heel Reader is a collection of free, easy-to-read, and accessible books on a wide range of topics. Each book can be speech enabled and accessed using multiple interfaces, including touch screens, the IntelliKeys with custom overlays, and 1 to 3 switches.You may write your own books using pictures from the huge collection at Flickr or pictures you upload. You may also use Tar Heel Readers books into iBooks with speech support.
  • The Talking Book Store is not free but if you want very rich books, very quickly, this is the place to go. Memberships are available so you can get a book every month.
  • Tumble Book Library has a collection of animated online storybooks you can read or listen to, intended for early elementary students. A library card is required to access all books.
  • Tumble Books Junior is a collection of ebooks and read-along chapter books, non-fiction books, graphic novels, educational videos, and audio books! This database is designed specifically for kids in grades three to six.
  • Unite for Literacy offers a great listing of books, read by people, offered in many languages right on your computer. The student turns the page, clicks on the sound button and follows along. These are good books for lower elementary age kids. It's a great collection that makes it easy for your students to choose from.
  • Voice of America offers news stories that you can listen to and read along with. An awesome resource for the adult or older student who is learning to master reading.
  • We Give Books - Introducing books available for you to read for free, anytime, anywhere, and on any device! Many of you have asked to read on your iPad, iPhone, or mobile device. Now you can. Just choose the Editor’s Picks collection from our and start reading. All books in the Editor’s Picks collection are free for anyone to read without signing in on We Give Books.
  • Zing is a free resource for educators, parents, and students that unlimited access to thousands of authentic ebooks in English and Spanish, both in school and at home. Users can choose from various grade levels and up to 5 genres, topics, and themes to display on the Zing homepage. Users must sign up for a free account in order to access Zing, and have the option of upgrading their access (this mostly applies to teachers) for $10 per year.

Worth Exploring:

Other Considerations:
  • Podcasts (available through iTunes) and TED Talks, both offering great audio opportunities! Audible sponsors many popular podcasts, including This American Life and other top shows, and offers free audiobooks through ads, so be alert when listening to those podcasts for free offers. NPR podcasts are always a delight.
  • CAST UDL Bookbuilder is an interactive bookmaker and reader. Check it out!!
  • Adapted Literature available through the Sherlock Center Resource Library. These resources are provided for teachers to help students with severe disabilities participate in the general curriculum.
  • If you can afford a monthly subscription, Audible.com is an awesome service. I have belonged and have thoroughly enjoyed it. You can stop for a while and then rejoin without penalty.
free audio books for ipod: audible.com
  • While it's primarily a subscription service (plans run from $157 to $229/year for 12-24 audio books) it does offer free audiobooks as part of its promotions to attract new subscribers.  Audible has a free iPhone app (Download at iTunes) that provides access to your Audible library via Wi-Fi. (Connected to Amazon.) If you have a Kindle, it is possible to listen and follow along but you would need to purchase both.
  • You can also explore the little tricks of having your Kindle read to you.  
  • Bookshare (see separate posting) is a national, nonprofit organization that maintains an online accessible library of copyrighted ebooks for people with print disabilities. Through an award from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), memberships are free for U.S. students with qualifying print disabilities and the schools serving them. Bookshare contains more than 325,000 titles, including educational materials, NIMAC-sourced textbooks, children’s books, bestsellers, newspapers and magazines. These materials are available in accessible formats such as DAISY, EPUB, BRF (Braille Ready Format), and MP3 that let students listen to words read aloud, follow along with word highlighting, and read in enlarged fonts or braille on a wide variety of reading tools such as computers, tablets, smartphones, assistive technology devices and more. Bookshare also offers free reading software to members.
  • Learning Ally comes with an annual fee and you must be eligible to receive their services by having a print disability (demonstrated learning disability, visual impairment, or physical disability that makes it difficult to read using traditional print).  Books are read by volunteers, so you can follow along by listening to a real person, not text-to-speech. Learning Ally, previously known as RFB&D, is a national nonprofit, largely volunteer organization that provides an extensive accessible audiobook library. Learning Ally serves qualifying individuals of all ages who cannot read or use standard print. Learning Ally’s collection of textbooks and literature titles are primarily digitally recorded human speech. Materials are downloadable and accessible on mainstream technology and e-readers as well as many assistive technology devices.
  • iBooks, on an iDevice, has the capability of being read to you. You must purchase the books then follow a little process, not well publicized but worth exploring.
  • One More Story is switch accessible and a subscription site for first - third-grade readers. Students can take their time in hitting the switch to turn the pages of the selected stories. They are in a narrated format with the words and pictures coming alive through music, sound effects and the voices of professional actors. Early readers enjoy the challenges of learning to read in a supportive, scaffolded environment where they can click on unknown words to hear them read aloud by the narrator. There is an app too.

Most of these sites offer public domain audio books (meaning books whose authors have been dead for, in most cases, at least 75 years). Most of its titles are drawn from Project Gutenberg and LibriVox.
  • Apps Gone Free has a listing of Audiobook Apps.
  • Audiobooks For Your Kids is a collection of more than 30 classic children’s audiobooks.
  • Loyal Books site offers public domain audiobooks (meaning books whose authors have been dead for, in most cases, at least 75 years). Most of its titles are drawn from Project Gutenberg and LibriVox. The audiobooks here, as the site's name indicates, are completely free and can be downloaded either as a podcast or as an MP3. Titles are offered in multiple languages.
  • Free Audiobooks - 4,728 Classics Audiobook Library For Less Than A Cup Of Coffee. By Digital Press Publishing
  • NPR has a list of Children's Book Apps: A New World Of Learning.
  • Open Culture (see above) also has an app.  
  • Podiobooks is one of the few sites that offers truly free audiobooks by modern authors. While you won't find the major names here, Podiobooks is packed full of free audiobooks by authors in more than two dozen genres (including public domain classics). The books are supported by listener donations, with 75% of donations going to authors. Options including listening on the site, downloading MP3s, or subscribing via podcast to each new chapter as it is released.
  • The Story Home app comes with 3 stories and gives users the opportunity to own (meaning buy) over 90 of The Story Home’s acclaimed children’s audio stories. (Read how it works.)
  • Tales2Go gives educators and parents instant and unlimited access to thousands of name-brand audiobooks and stories from leading publishers and storytellers to play on iDevices in classrooms and beyond, all for one low annual price.  

MP3 players have the capacity to play audiobooks. Most families have MP3 technology in their home and young children are frequently able to use the devices. The MP3 platform offers the quickest access to recorded books.

They can be downloaded from the internet to your player. MP3 ready audiobooks may also be purchased in traditional stores and borrowed from the library.

Many accessories are available to make the listening process even easier, adding to the benefits of audiobooks for children. Headphones attach to all three types of players and lessen distractions while the child is listening to the recording. Battery power is also an option for all three kinds of devices. Battery power makes the player portable so children can listen anytime and anywhere. Most importantly the equipment is affordable.

In many cases, you probably already own appropriate equipment to get started.

The benefits of children’s audiobooks, especially the role they play in creating reading independence, are infinite. Through advances in technology, audiobooks are now available to many families. The equipment is easy for young children to use and there are many books available in audio form. Adding audiobooks to your home library has the potential to greatly improve your child’s reading ability.

Don't forget to make your own audiobooks for your kids. When they go off to camp or to a friend's house for an over nighter, no one needs to know that they are actually being comforted by hearing you read to them. All they have to do it plug in their headset and Viola!  (See the Podcasting post for more information on making your own podcast - aka audiobooks.)

Seven Great Reasons to Explore Audiobooks: (By Playtime Books)
  1. Freedom - You can listen, learn and enjoy audiobooks almost anywhere. From driving your car to traveling by bus and from waiting in a queue to flying over the Atlantic, audiobooks offer a world of entertainment and learning.
  2. Choice - Audiobooks have evolved. Just on this website you will find more than 50,000 titles to choose from. Almost all best-selling books and educational material is now available as a downloadable audiobook
  3. Easy - It takes only minutes to choose and download a talking book. Delivery is instant and you are ready to start listing within minutes.
  4. Learn anywhere - With audiobooks you can lean while you are ironing, driving, traveling, waiting in line and a large number of other common situations. This means that you can learn a lot more quickly than with traditional books.
  5. Relax - Audiobooks are fantastic for relaxation. Choose your favorite location, put your feet up, lie back and relax.  
  6. Weightless - Want to take your favorite books on holiday? Are they heavy? Audiobooks, in contrast, are weightless!
  7. Wonderful - I personally love to go walking while listening to an audiobook. The hours simply melt away and I am getting fit while  enjoying a book all at the same time.
(If this isn't enough, check out these 7 Reasons to why you should Listen to Audiobooks.)

Further Resources:

If none of this has convinced you, maybe this will: