Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Text to speech software experiments


I receive quite a few emails from people asking me for ways to assist quads with reading. Of course, in the post below, Matt's blog has a review of a great page turner, but if you're not up to the over three thousand dollar price tag, I'll share what I do.

I'm using a Lenovo book stand and wear a headpointer to turn pages for my work materials that are not in accessible form, but for leisure reading I use books on tape and CD from the National Library for Blind and Recording for Blind. I've been using bookshare.org but the software program is glitchy for me so I need to find a text to speech program to convert it.

Yesterday I experimented with what's available on the Mac platform. I tried a demo of the newly released GhostReader yesterday. It comes with a one button way to convert a text file to audio and send it to iTunes, but its performance was disappointing. I downloaded a demo of iSpeakIt, which may work but I can't tell since the demo only allows the first 1000 words to be converted. I didn't like the voices in iSpeakIt, however so if I do buy it I'd need to download additional voices to use so I'd have enough clarity to understand the content, particularly for lengthy audio reading.

The price of either of these software packages is modest, ranging from $19.99 to $39.99 (and up with add-ons). They might work better for you than me. I'm using an iBook G4 and wonder if that had anything to do with GhostReader's performance. I'd be interested in hearing from anyone else trying these programs out.

I'm also going to check out TextAloud on Windows to see if that works any better. They also have a free demo you can try out.

I keep hoping bookshare will change the software they offer to read their books since they offer a lot of great books. I've read on message boards that I'm not the only one experiencing Victor Soft as glitchy and , in my case, I emailed bookshare six months ago to report a problem and was told that I'd have to wait to get the text to speech function back until the software was changed since I had Internet Explorer 7. I recently tried again and still no go.

Another way to use bookshare as a quad is to download the books in html format, then use your head cursor to scroll down and read it online. I find, however, that it is easy to scroll down too much - but with practice it definitely improves.

You might also consider purchasing a book reader that will download bookshare books, such as Book Port, Book Courier or the new Victor Reader Stream. They range in price from $329 to $399, without accessories. They do require some dexterity, however, so it depends on what level your injury is - or if you have assistance available.

[visual description: A woman wearing a headpointer is shown turning the pages of a book. Another woman assists her by holding the book. The headpointer is worn on the top of her head and there is a rod that extends forward.]

1 comment:

Ruth said...

Greg from PittRehab suggests: Kurzweil and /or Zoom Text as software. He also mentioned possibility for some readers getting funding from their dept of vocational rehab and/or low cost loans from a state assistive technology grant(s) for this kind of resource.

Thanks, Greg - (slipped and deleted your comment!)