Ellen Hanna remembers all too well the meticulous process of recording audiobooks on reel-to-reel tapes and years later cassette tapes. Hanna is a longtime volunteer for the nonprofit Learning Ally, which has amassed the world’s largest library of audio textbooks for people who are blind, visually impaired and disabled.

Recording textbooks for Learning Ally was an unforgettably tedious task in the Athens, Georgia studio where Hanna still works. The 84-year-old began volunteering with the nonprofit 50 years ago — a milestone she recently celebrated.

“Back then, if you made a mistake on tape, you had to guess how far back it was on the tape, rewind and record everything all over again,” Hanna said.

Of course, these challenges are in her rearview mirror. These days Hanna works in an entirely digital studio, where sleek computer software notifies volunteers the moment they’ve erred so they can backtrack to re-record painlessly.

Learning Ally’s audiobooks, now of much higher quality than earlier editions, are available for download on virtually every popular device. And these are the same gadgets Hanna uses with an impressive level of dexterity, as she has adapted to new technologies just as her organization has.

The retired math teacher, who has spent thousands of her Tuesday afternoons in the studio recording math textbooks for students of all ages, is a whiz at games like Words With Friends, which she plays on her iPhone. She also responds to her emails at a rapid-fire pace.

Navigating her computer and iPhone are second nature to this tech-savvy senior, but when she takes a moment to reflect on the vast number of technological advances she has seen over the course of her life, she is awestruck.

“I’ve seen lots of changes. Just when you think they can’t do anything more, they come out with something new,” Hanna said.

*Article by Megan Anderle- see more at