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Title | Defining AT | Defining IT | Defining AET | AT Categories | AT Checklist | AT Accommodations | Screen Readers | Example Materials

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.

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Copyright 2006 Drs.Cavanaugh  Last modified: March 06, 2008