Specific Learning Disability: For reading
Read & Write TextHelp, ClaroRead & Kurzweil 3000
The main purpose of these products is to use speech synthesis to convert text into a life-like spoken voice output so the user can listen to rather than read books, articles, the internet, email and other formats. This feature is called text-to-speech. These products typically have other literacy assistance features such as predictive text, text to MP3 file conversion and basic mind mapping tools.
Each brand offers a number of products that differ in range of functionality. Optical character recognition (OCR) should be considered when evaluating which product is required.
OCR allows inaccessible PDF, often the result of hardcopy being scanned by a photocopier into a PDF file (also known as an image PDF), to be converted into an accessible format. This capability is useful in situations where a student is researching and has come across an article that is inaccessible -- being able to quickly OCR means they can get on with their study.
Desktop, tablet, USB and online versions of products are also often available.
Smartphone Apps: Prizmo and Text Fairy
Being able to take a photo of a page of text, OCR it and have it read back is very useful when coming across hardcopy in a classroom, library or work placement. For iPhone or iPad users Prizmo does just this. For android smartphone users, Text Fairy will OCR photographed text and the built in text-to-speech capability of android phones (go to accessibility settings) allows text-to-speech to read the text aloud.
Computer operating systems, some browsers and products such as Adobe Reader come with text-to-speech functionality. This functionality is referred to as “native” to the product. A benefit of native accessibility functionality, as compared to freeware, is that both product support and development is ongoing. Whilst native text-to-speech is typically more limited than dedicated text-to-speech software it does, however, offer basic accessibility and is certainly worth checking out.