Text-to-Speech (TTS) software is an assistive technology tool that can be used to help those who have difficulty reading text. Students with learning and attention issues should be able to access the same learning materials as other students, to create a level playing field. Using software that turns written material into audio is a popular method of assistive technology used to help students with reading issues like dyslexia.

  • Text-to-Speech software can be used on many different devices and in many ways
  • It can help students with neurodiverse (dyslexia, dyspraxia, etc.) conditions study more effectively

Text-to-Speech technology allows students to see text and hear it read aloud at the same time. Most software products use voice synthesizers that sound almost human.

There are different types of text-to-speech software:

  • Screen readers: iPads and iPhones have Text-to-Speech features built in, as do many other smartphones. The software reads text files and even the names of programs or folders that you see on the screen, making navigation of the device more efficient and intuitive for the end user. This is also helpful for those who have issues with vision. PCs, tablets and laptops can be used as assistive technology tools.
  • Text readers: This type of software turns written text into speech. It can read certain types of files and web pages aloud. Text readers also highlight words as they’re read, so you can follow along as the text is being read to you. This combination of seeing and hearing to learn is called multimodal reading, and is great for improving confidence as much as enhancing reading abilities.
  • POET: Primarily aimed at electronic text and eBook users, this online tool creates accessible image descriptions for DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System) books. Once a user uploads and creates a description, it’s available for the next reader who downloads the DAISY file.

Using Text-to-Speech Technology

Text-to-Speech tools can be used with different kinds of technology, from computers to mobile devices. It’s often used with optical character recognition (OCR). OCR is a technology that scans printed material and converts it to digital text. There are portable OCR devices available called reading pens that can scan and read back text.

Apps are available for iPad, iPhone and other smartphones that can read digital books, either by downloading the book to the device, or taking a photograph of the text using the camera. Other controls:

  • Font size and colour
  • Brightness and contrast
  • Type of voice (male, female or computerized)
  • Rate of speech

How Text-to-Speech Can Help Students with Reading Issues

Printed materials in the classroom can make learning harder for students who have trouble reading. Using digital text with Text-to-Speech software can make the process easier. Some websites have this feature embedded, too, e.g. BrowseAloud. Researchers have found that the combination of seeing and hearing text when reading:

  • Improves word recognition
  • Increases the ability to pay attention and remember information
  • Allows students to focus on comprehension instead of sounding out words
  • Increases students staying power for reading assignments, long texts or book chapters
  • Helps students to recognize and fix errors in their own writing

Text-to-Speech Software:

read&write
read&write literacy software makes the web, documents and files more accessible. It assists students at all levels with everyday tasks like reading text out loud, understanding unfamiliar words, researching assignments and proofing written work. It is a big confidence booster for anyone who needs a little extra help with their reading and writing, at school or in the workplace. It is great for people with dyslexia and other learning difficulties, or anyone whose first language is not English. It allows students to work independently in an inclusive environment ensuring they keep up with their peers in the same classroom. Increased independence leads to higher levels of motivation resulting in users who are empowered to carry on with study at home, school or even in the work place.

ClaroRead
ClaroRead is a highly effective software solution for supporting reading and writing. Designed with simplicity and flexibility for all ages and abilities, ClaroRead aids concentration and increases confidence. ClaroRead can speak practically any on-screen text out loud, and is perfectly integrated with Microsoft Word. With ClaroRead, scanned books and documents are also read back with complete clarity. A wide range of visual tools are included to colour, highlight, and focus on text as it is spoken by the computer. ClaroRead improves written accuracy with an enhanced spell check, homophone check, thesaurus and speaking dictionary. Words can also be spoken back as they are typed.

Key Points:

  • Text-to-Speech software provides a reading experience that combines seeing with hearing.
  • Many e-readers and digital devices offer text-to-speech apps and options.
  • If you think you would benefit from Text-to-Speech software, talk to the Disability and Welbeing Service (DWS), or contact Sebastiaan to arrange an appointment. If you have an Inclusion Plan or ISSA, ask the DWS to arrange an appointment.