Title | Defining
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Speech Reader Capabilities
The use of screen readers or text-to-speech software
programs have a number of built-in capabilities that may
provide advantages for individuals over print media or other
audio media, such as books on tape/disc.
How does it sound? Pretty good but not great.
Consider that while a book on tape does provide a
"real person" with real inflections and tonality, a
speech to text program, as yet, cannot provide that same
quality. But with the current state of speech synthesis a
large number of programs do provide a very human quality,
that is usually intelligible. Screen readers have advanced to
the state of even understanding and correctly pronouncing
such material as "I have read that book already, and I
will read that other book later" and many screen readers
can tell the difference between the two "reads".
[hear sample WAV or MOV]
What can you change? Speed, pitch, voice, modulation,
font, size, color.
If the pitch/tone that a person reads is beyond your
ability to hear then the application of a book on tape
becomes useless, as there is no way to change the voice's
pitch. But most screen readers today do allow adjustment of
pitch of the selected reader. This ability to change the way
material is spoken even extends on some systems to changing
the voice modulation to improve clarity at a readers speed.
Screen readers have the ability to change the speed at which
text is read. Most programs can vary the speed between 60 to
400 words per minute. This change in speed does not effect
the quality of the spoken word, this is not like a record or
tape sped up, only the speed of the pronunciation. Many
systems will also allow users to change the reader, for
example DECTalk has eight different voices including males,
females, and children. An additional advantage of printed
text is that a screen reader can also change the size of the
displayed text to larger or clearer fonts, especially nice
for visual impairments. Systems that allow you to change the
font size will also usually allow users to have some control
over the displayed colors of the text and background. Studies
have shown that many people can be assisted by just simple
color changes, such as a pink or blue background color. For
these people that simple change can make the text legible.
Any special advantages? Quite a few.
Screen readers can also assist readers by providing other
assists like visual tracking with highlighting. With this
form of visual track words, sentences, or paragraphs (user
selected) are highlighted as they are read, providing better
tracking and attention to the written material. A user can
also just select a given word or phrase and indicate to the
system just to read that selected portion. Or the user can
select the system to read the entire text but pause and wait
for user input after each sentence (or paragraph). This kind
of processing wait time is very important for students who
need some additional processing time for understanding
between reading each segment. A student can also request that
a section be re-read with a simple mouse click or keyboard
press. Many systems are also now including bookmarking
features. A bookmark will in essence mark your page where you
stopped reading, and then will start there the next time you
"open" that text.