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Speech Output Systems


Speech output is now available on all computer systems. It has considerable benefits for people with learning difficulties and disabilities as it provides additional reinforcement, motivation and feedback from the computer. However, the software being used has to be capable of producing speech output.

Specialist software is also available to translate the entire output of the computer into speech for users with visual difficulties. Using and setting up this software requires a considerable degree of training and skill. For example, it would be useless to a blind user to have the computer read the entire screen display at regular intervals as they will require specialist feedback i.e., the software will be able to recognise the appearance of a window with information and will only speak that information when required.

Computers are capable of producing two types of speech - digitised and synthetic.

Digitised - real speech sounds are recorded and turned into digital information which can then be stored and replayed, in a similar way to audio CDs.

Synthetic - speech or sounds created by the software. A speech synthesiser will turn text into speech by applying the standard rules of pronunciation.

Synthesisers are becoming cleverer and are able to make good sense of text, providing appropriate pauses and inflections etc. resulting in speech which is becoming more natural and less robotic.

Speech synthesis is necessary to read back the work done by a child using a word-processor, or to help a visually impaired or blind user by reading back everything that they have written.

Speech feedback from word-processors can usually be tailored as required. For example, for some users it may be useful to have every key press echoed: other users may only require completed sentences or words to be read back to them, or may just wish to hear an entire piece of written work read back when it is completed. These options are usually available within most word-processors that include a speech feedback option.

IntelliTalk 3Digitised sound is capable of high quality and accurate reproduction of speech and other sounds. However digitised sound has to be recorded into the computer so cannot be used where an instant translation to speech is required e.g. in a talking word processor or a screen reader for a blind person. It does have the advantage of greater intelligibility and many programs allow digitised sound to be easily added.



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