knfbReader by Sensotec nv – View of the iPhone screen with a scanned document and output
I received a free version of the app through my role on the British Dyslexia Association’s New Technologies Committee and I love it! For my own personal use (dyslexia rather than VI), I’ve historically relied on apps such as Prizmo or ClaroSpeak (with OCR addon). I started using this app a few months ago and for me this app is a big step up for two reasons:
1. Exceptionally fast user experience
2. Exceptional accuracy
1. Exceptionally fast user experience
The app’s purpose is essentially the same as Prizmo / ClaroSpeak (with OCR addon) / CapturaTalk. However, the main advantage for me is that the time from snapping the photo and to starting to hear it being read aloud is a couple of seconds on my old iPhone 4S, and instantaneous on my iPhone 6. They do this by:
a) Having an auto-read function, so as soon as it has text from the photo it reads aloud to you, without you having to press another button.
b) Starting to read before the whole page has been analysed. As soon as it’s recognised the first sentence it starts to read that aloud.
The user interface is really nice – open the app, hold it above the page and press one button! Then sit back and relax while the page is read to you. This is a big plus for day-to-day use.
2. Exceptional accuracy
From my non-scientific playing with the app, the OCR accuracy appears to be at least as good as (and I think better than) ClaroSpeak’s OCR addon, and it is much better than Prizmo.
So money-no-object it wins hands down for me – an ideal example of an app that does only one thing and does it very well. Cost £79.99 for the iPhone
“Babelbar works with Facebook, Twitter and Google docs. It is useful if you do not have your own text to speech program.”
Babelbar is an extension or add-on for internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Safari and appears over the web page. You need to highlight the text first then it will speak. It can change the colour background, font size and translate text.
Attendee at Accessing the Higher Ground Conference
“Many of our students like to use the ‘howjsay’ website as part of their pre-reading of lecture notes. It gives an accurate pronunciation of unfamiliar technical terms, which can be used to prepare students for quick recognition when a word is said in a lecture. It also provides a multi-sensory input which will increase spelling accuracy. In addition, it can help students confidence in preparation for a presentation. Pronunciation can be practised to hopefully minimise slips and increase fluency.
Students have commented that it has a consistently higher accuracy level than some of the usual text to speech programs, which can struggle with technical words that are not phonetically regular. It is particularly popular with our medics. It has a clear and uncluttered layout and has the added benefit of not being license restricted so it can be used on many different pieces of hardware. Finally, as it is free so is available to students who are not DSA funded.”
A freely available way of using text to speech in Word, PowerPoint and OneNote and even
Excel is possible thanks to the Microsoft Office ribbon command menu. You can select text and have it read back. This idea does not offer all that specialist programs can provide such as text highlighting, pausing etc. but it is a quick way to hear how a word, phrase or sentence sounds when you want a quick check.
If you go to Quick Access Toolbar in the ribbon you customise it by choosing More Commands – select ‘Quick Access toolbar’ from the menu on the left > Then go to the top of the right hand window and make sure you drop down the command list to ‘All commands’ otherwise you will not see ‘Speak’ in the list – Add it and return to your document.
When you have typed something or have a file to read – highlight the text and select the new speech bubble that appears in your Quick Access toolbar. The text will be read aloud in any voice you have chosen from the Control Panel > Speech recognition > text to speech.
“I’ve just tried a different vBookz app [from the one that offers free Audiobooks – 30,000+ classics read aloud with text to speech]! Its called vBookz PDF Voice Reader. It is a free PDF TTS app and will read directly from a PDF, so you see the page as it should be, not just plain text. It uses a moving box, rather than highlighting – the box surrounds the word currently being read. The screen shot shows how the reading speed is controlled and page control.”
“Free Balabolka will open unprotected ePub files (and pdfs), but not protected ones like library books. Balabolka has options for changing font style, colour, size and background colour. It can use the free MS voices or any voices you have with other programs, and speaks with highlighting. It does not preserve presentation or images.”
The on-screen text can be saved as a WAV, MP3, MP4, OGG or WMA file. The program can read the clipboard content, view the text from CHM, DjVu, DOC, EPUB, FB2, HTML, ODT, PDF and RTF files.
Here is a video with Craig Mill showing the use of Balabolka being used with MyStudyBar
“Reading is big issue for me – I find it hard to concentrate on the content so I have to scan in documents so I use a program to read them back to help me focus and absorb more information. Quite often I download E-Journals and they are all set up in PDF format. But, when I come to use the software, it is quite hard so then I transfer it to a Word document. It is much more user-friendly.
Basically, I have been used to using the software for TextHelp Read and Write [Gold] (YouTube video) and in that program you can scan the document – you can scan the PDF document and transfer it to a Word document” [This is also possible with ClaroRead (YouTube video)]
“My workaround may be a little complicated to include.[…] It’s a million times better than VoiceOver for dyslexic users – it’s designed for dyslexics rather than VI [Visual impairment]. It’s a built in accessibility feature for iOS5, so works everywhere.
Apple say: Speak Selection
Want to select text from websites, email, messages, and more? Speak Selection lets you highlight text in any application by double tapping it. Even if you don’t have VoiceOver enabled, Speak Selection will read you the highlighted text and give you formatting options like cut, copy, and paste. Turn on Speak Selection in Settings.