Text-to-speech helps those who cannot read print for a variety of reasons. To understand its use and benefits, let’s explore different reading styles that would benefit from text-t0-speech. These reading styles might qualify someone for a Bookshare membership; a qualified professional would make that decision.
Individuals who are blind depend on text-to-speech to navigate a computer. Those with low vision may or may not use text-to-speech, depending on the accommodations they need. Text-to-speech output can be used to read a book on a device, such as the devices from Plextalk and Humanware, or an computer, such as Kurzweil 1000 from Cambium Learning.
Individuals with severe learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, who have difficulty decoding and understanding text may comprehend printed content much better when it is read out loud. According to reports from teachers and students, these individuals may have substantial gains in reading scores and comprehension with multi-modal reading, when the text-to-speech is combined with word-by-word highlighting. For example, after introducing a student to Bookshare and multi-modal reading, one teacher reported a fifth grade student progressing from 65 to 76 to 103, between August and January as measured on the DIBELS reading assessment test.
Many text-to-speech software programs are available that provide a range of reading supports, including highlighting of text as it is read aloud, changing font type and size, and setting custom background and text colors. Some of these programs include Kurzweil 3000 by Cambium Learning Technologies, Read:OutLoud by Don Johnston, WYNN by Freedom Scientific, and Read & Write GOLD by Texthelp Systems.
Individuals with physical disabilities who cannot hold a book or turn its pages may or may not need text-to-speech output. The appropriate assistive technologies will provide these students with the accommodations, including text-to-speech, as needed to read independently
The assessment is the key determining factor in deciding whether or not a student will benefit from a text-to-speech output accommodation. A student who has difficulty decoding multisyllabic words, loses his or her place on the page, or has difficulty comprehending printed text, may benefit from text-to-speech output. It is the responsibility of the educators and therapists working with the student and the student’s IEP team to make that determination and document it in the IEP. Choosing the right software application for the student depends on matching the features of the software with the student’s needs.
It is possible to start a student using software that provides text-to-speech and word-by-word highlighting without a formal evaluation; however, to give that student access to Bookshare content, a qualified professional will have to certify that the student qualifies for Bookshare.
What can you do to help others who may benefit from TTS?
1. Learn more from one or more of these links:
Technology to Help Struggling Students
National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials
2. Show this short video about accessible books at a faculty meeting.
3. Take 3 minutes and learn about the Bookshare edition of Read:OutLoud.
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