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Audio-Supported Reading and Students with Learning Disabilities


Richard Jackson & Joanne Karger


National Center on Accessible Educational Materials (AEM Center)


This paper provides an introduction to the concept of audio-supported reading (ASR) for students with specific learning disabilities. In a previous paper written for the National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM Center), Jackson (2012) defined ASR as a technology-based technique for reading in which individuals read digital text in conjunction with listening to the text in an audio format such as text-to-speech (TTS). A video demonstration of ASR with computers, tablets, and smartphones can be viewed on the Audio-Supported Reading page. While this earlier work focused on ASR in relation to students who are blind or have low vision, here we expand the discussion to include students with specific learning disabilities.

Part I of this paper describes the evolution of the concept of “specific learning disability” under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2004. Part II discusses the ways in which accessible educational materials (AEM) can be used to support specific reading-related needs of students with learning disabilities. Part III provides a summary of ASR technique and examines the limited research pertaining to ASR and students with learning disabilities. Finally, Part IV presents key considerations for future work in this area.

Audio-Supported Reading (ASR)

Technique used to support the rapid reading of digital text by displaying portions of text with synthesized speech.

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Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM)

Print-based educational materials converted into specialized formats, related to the requirements of the IDEA statute.

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Equipment or system where principal function is creation, conversion, duplication, control, display, interchange, transmission, reception, or broadcast of data.

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Digital Text

Published material retrieved and read via a computer.

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Text-to-Speech (TTS)

Artificial production of human speech, using special software and/or hardware.

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Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

Federal law governing rights of children with disabilities to receive free and appropriate public education in least restrictive environment.

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Accessible Educational Materials (AEM)

Print- and technology-based educational materials designed to be usable across the widest range of individual variability.

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Jackson, R.M. & Karger, J. (2015). Audio-supported reading and students with learning disabilities. Wakefield, MA: National Center on Accessible Educational Materials. Retrieved on [insert date] from