Understanding Assistive Technology: What is ‘Text To Speech’and why use it?

Understanding the terminology.

Put simply, the term ‘text to speech’ refers to technology that reads out text. When used on a computer or tablet it can often be referred to as a ‘screen reader’. Text to speech technology can come in different forms that are used for different purposes. This article is going to focus on how it is used to assist with the reading of text.

How does text to speech work?

Text to speech software takes any text, recognises the words and then reads out that text. It can work as a ‘screen reader’ for electronic text or it can be used to access printed text.

Text to speech comes in different forms such as a software or as handheld device.

Why use text to speech?

Text to speech technology is particularly useful for users that experience a ‘print disability’ such as a visual impairment or dyslexia. A print disability directly affects the ability of an individual to physically read text. Text to speech can also be useful for users who find reading from screens difficult in terms of fatigue, concentration and focus. Users who experience poor working memory or attention deficit challenges may also benefit from listening to the text being read out rather than directly reading the text.

Text to speech technology enhances reading skills, improves understanding and promotes confidence and autonomy within numerous settings.

This technology is often used by dyslexic readers and can alleviate some of the common challenges for reading such as:

  • Seeing distortions in the text,
  • Poor comprehension,
  • Fatigue,
  • Mis-reading text,
  • Difficulties with focus and concentration.

Text to speech technology is brilliant for helping with proof reading text providing a benefit to anyone who needs to write lengthy pieces for their studies or workplace. So often, after working on a piece of written work for a number of hours, one’s mind can get tired and so can miss subtle mistakes such as using incorrect homophones (word that sound the same but have different meanings), poor grammar and spelling. Text to speech technology will help the user to identify mistakes in the text at a deeper level than standard word processor packages would. The software will read out the text using the rules of the English language and if a piece of text is written in a way that doesn’t read well, the voice will ‘trip over‘ the mistakes thus highlighting the issue audibly when a tired writer is unlikely to pick up on the issues after hours of writing and proof reading.

Screen readers such as ClaroRead or Texthelp Read&Write are most commonly used by student’s at university or by employees within the workplace. They work by providing a toolbar from which one can control how the text is read from any other active program on a PC. They can also be used to read out electronic documents such as PDF files.  These types of programs provide better access to text that is presented on a screen.

We recommend the following software to support reading text from a screen:

You can find out more about these products on www.dyslexic.com

Portable scanners.

Portable scanners such as the C-Pen or the Orcam Read Smart, are handheld devices that scan printed text in books, magazines, and other forms of printed text.

The C-Pen requires the user to run the scanner along lines of printed text. It then takes the scan and ‘decodes’ the scan into text which it then reads out. The C-Pen has been found to be a useful and discrete way of having text read out as it can be used with earphones. The C-Pen has been found to be particularly useful in exams (using the Exam Reader version of the C-Pen) and is currently the only text to speech technology that is approved by the Joint Council For Qualifications.

The Orcam Read Smart works differently to a C-Pen in that it takes a picture of a whole piece of text, for example, a page of a book or a sign on a wall, and then converts that picture into text and then reads it out. One simply aims the device at the desired text and it will read it out. This device is able to read more forms of printed text in a wider range of scenarios than the C-Pen thus providing more flexibility for accessing text on a day to day basis.

Find out more about hand-held text to speech devices on www.dyslexic.com

How can I get access to text to speech technology?

The technology mentioned within this article are available are suitable for individual use, have student and workplace specific versions.

Whether you are a student or an employee in the workplace, we can advise you on which technology would work best for you and how you can apply for support to obtain this technology.

For more information, please contact our specialists at www.iansyst.co.uk.
Original article by John Hicks.

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