text to speech reading software

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Computer Software Reads Text Aloud

by Dan Gilman.      October 12, 2002

Is there computer software that reads text aloud for someone with a learning disability?
I am frequently asked this question by educators, parents, vocational rehabilitation counselors, and people struggling to read printed text.

This particular kind of software application is not to be confused with computer programs designed for people with visual impairments. The text-to-speech programs discussed in this column are designed specifically for people with a learning disability, or for people who struggle to read text.

This particular software highlights, and simultaneously reads aloud each word. You can adjust the rate of speed for reading text aloud, and you can select from a choice of voices for reading aloud text. The benefit is you "see" and "hear" each word being read aloud. This is unlike the text readers that read aloud a block of text, and you have no idea what word is being spoken.

The software has the capability to scan a printed page and then convert the page into electronic text. There is a feature that displays the scanned text on the computer screen in an "exact view"-- just as the information is presented on the printed page. This is accomplished using a flatbed scanner, and software called optical character recognition (OCR). Reading information, in the exact view mode, requires the OCR that is included with the reading software.

These text-to-speech reading programs will also read aloud text that has been saved using a regular word processor.

The software also has the capability of reading aloud text on a web page. The software will NOT read text embedded within an image. The reading of text on a web page is very similar as reading text using the "scanned" feature-- the software highlights each word as it simultaneously reads aloud the text.

These reading programs also have a built-in dictionary for reading aloud the definition of a word that you might not understand. This feature allows for simply clicking on the unfamiliar word, and then activating the built-in dictionary to read aloud the definition of the word. The built-in dictionary is available when reading scanned text, and when reading text on a Web page.

Recent upgrades have a feature called "word prediction" included within text reading programs. Word prediction provides a menu of words to select from as you type characters. This feature is very helpful for people who are good at recognizing words but may struggle with spelling. The typist must be able to type at least two or more characters of a word and then select the desired word from the menu of "predicted" words.

Copyright © Dan Gilman, 2002, may only be used or duplicated with permission.

Dan Gilman is an an Assistive Technology Practitioner and webmaster of AbilityHub.com, and has worked in the Assistive Technology field since 1992. Dan has dedicated his efforts to assist those disabled individuals who require Assistive Technology to access the computer.

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