Tag Archives: text to speech

Read to Me in Book Creator 5

Read to Me Screen in Book Creator

Book Creator for iPad recently added a new Read to Me text to speech feature that allows learners to hear their books read aloud within the app (without having to transfer the book to iBooks first). The feature also supports accessibility in two other ways:

  • all embedded media can be played automatically. This is great for those with motor difficulties, and it also creates a better flow during reading (no need to stop and start the text to speech to hear the embedded media).
  • automatic page flips: again this is a great feature for those who can’t perform the page flip gesture to turn the pages in a book.

These options can be configured through a Settings pane where it is possible to change the voice (you can choose any voice available for Speech in iOS), slow it down, or remove the word by word highlighting that goes along with it. For better focus, it is also possible to show one page at a time by unchecking the “Side by side pages” option under Display.

I created a short video to show how the new feature works (with a bonus at the end: how to fix the pronunciations with the new pronunciation editor built into the Speech feature in iOS 10).

 

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5 Accessibility Features Every Learner Should Know

On the occasion of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) this week (May 19th), I created an infographic using Piktochart to highlight some of the iOS accessibility features that can benefit a wide range of diverse learners, not just those who have been labeled as having a disability.

Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 4.02.00 PM

This post is an alternative representation for those who cannot access it as an infographic.

It’s built in.

Every iOS device comes with a standard set of accessibility features that are ready to use as soon as you take the device out of the box. Let’s take a look at a few of these features that can benefit all users in the spirit of Universal Design.

Get started by going to Settings > General > Accessibility!

#1: Closed Captions

Closed captions were originally developed for those with hearing difficulties, but they can help you if you speak English as a second language or just need them as a support for improved processing. Captions can also help if your speakers are not working, or the sound in the video is of poor quality.

80% of caption users did not have any kind of hearing loss in one UK study.

Learn how to enable and customize closed captions on your iOS device.

#2: Speech

All iOS devices support built-in text to speech with the option to turn on word highlighting. Starting with iOS 8, it is possible to use the more natural Alex voice formerly available only on the Mac. TTS supports decoding, which frees you the reader to focus on the meaning of the text.

Breathe!: Alex takes a breath every once in a while to simulate the way we speak!

  • Learn how to enable and use Speak Selection on your iOS device.
  • Bonus tip!: Don’t want to make a selection first? No problem. Just bring up Siri and say “Speak Screen.” This will read everything on the screen!

#3: Safari Reader

Safari’s Reader is not really an accessibility feature (you will not find it in Settings) but it can help you if you find that you get distracted by all the ads when you are reading or doing research online. It is also a nice complement to the Speech features mentioned above. With iOS 9, you can now customize the appearance of the text and even change the background and font to make it easier to read when you surf the Web.

Left my heart in…San Francisco is a new system font available in iOS 9. It is designed to be easier to read, and is one of the font options available for Reader.

Learn how to use Safari Reader when you surf the Web.

#4: Dictation

Whenever you see the iOS keyboard, you can tap the microphone icon to the left of the space bar to start entering text using just your voice. This can help you get your words down on the page (or is it the screen?) more efficiently.

Try It!: Dictation can handle complex words. Try this: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Dictation supports more than just entering text. Follow the link for a helpful list of additional Dictation commands.

#5: QuickType and 3rd Party Keyboards

QuickType is Apple’s name for the word prediction feature now built into the iOS keyboard. Word prediction can help you if you struggle with spelling, and it can speed up your text entry as well. Starting with iOS 8, it is now possible to customize the built-in keyboard by installing a 3rd party app. The 3rd party keyboards add improved word prediction, themes for changing the appearance of the keys and more.

17 Seconds: World record for texting. Can you beat it?

Learn how to use QuickType and how to set up and use 3rd party keyboards.

Bonus Tips

Struggling to see the screen? – make sure to check out the Vision section in the Accessibility Settings. You can Zoom in to magnify what is shown on the screen,  Invert Colors to enable a high contrast mode, make the text larger with Dynamic Text, and much more.

Sources:

Authoring ePub documents for the iPad with Automator, TextEdit and Text to Speech

The website Mac OS  X Automation has a great tutorial on how to use some of the new text to ePub automator actions that are available in Mac OS X Lion, and they have even put together a few automator workflows to make the process easier. I was inspired by the information they had on their website to see if I could create my own ePub document using the information they provided, but I added a twist: I added a recording of the text at the beginning of each chapter and this recording was created using the excellent Alex voice available with the Text to Speech feature in Mac OS X. The tutorial is now available on YouTube (and it is closed captioned). I think having an audio version could be beneficial for students with learning disabilities by providing the content in another modality. While the iPad and other IOS devices already include a great screen reader in VoiceOver, the voice available on those devices is not as good as Alex is, so this is why I decided it might be a good idea to provide the text to speech recording created on the Mac. Along the way to making this tutorial, I also learned about  new automator actions for converting video and audio files into the correct formats for ePub (and iTunes U). To use these actions, select your file(s), right-click on them and choose Services, Encode Selected Video (or Audio) Files. For audio this will result in an .m4a file saved to the same location as the original, and for video the format of the converted file will be .m4v.

Services, Encode Selected Video Files option when you right-click on a video file.

Text to Voice

Free

Link: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/91405/

Text to Voice is a Firefox plug-in that adds text to speech to any web page. After you install the add-on, you will see a small speaker icon in the lower right corner of the Firefox window. To use the extension, select some text on a web page and click once on the speaker icon. You will then hear the selected text.

This extension currently supports two voices (Male and Female). Of the two, I found the female voice to be the best in terms of clarity and pacing. The preferences can be accessed by right-clicking on the speaker icon.

You can also use the extension by selecting some text on the page, right-clicking on the selection, and choosing Speak It!. This should bring up a small window (your popup blocker might need to be disabled). One of the options on the popup window will be a link you can click on to download an MP3 version of the selected text.