About ten percent of the population is affected by Dyslexia. It is a learning difficulty that manifests itself through poor organisational skills, limited physical co-ordination and reduced short-term memory. In school environments, this is accentuated in subjects such as mathematics, writing, spelling and most importantly, reading. Assistance in this area is often the starting point for intervention and an increasing awareness of the condition means a range of technology that can assist these individuals is now readily available. The following tools and apps could easily be adapted by teachers and tutors for a differentiated lesson, as well as by individual learners who are studying and wish to be more independent.
ZAMZAR – is a free tool that users can engage with straight from their website. It is able to work with text from PDFs, doc files and URLs to convert text into audible speech. Features include users being sent a link via email to the audio file created, which is available 24 hours after the link has been sent, as well as this the user interface is straightforward and the sequences aren’t complicated. Two points to note are that the text must be saved as file as you are unable to simply cut and paste it into the converter; also there are no alternative voices available for the text conversion.
Natural Reader – is a highly recommended tool that costs around US $50. It is able to convert files up to 4 million letters long. Once it has been purchased from the website the user downloads the program onto their computer. From here it becomes an add-on toolbar for MSOffice, Internet Explorer and Firefox. It can work with text from PDFs, URLs, Emails and plain text documents. The upside of paying for this tool is that it offers 2 voices, with more available for purchase, as well as various talking speeds.
iSpeech – is a free app downloadable from the App Store that works with iPhones and iPads. Files can be saved onto your mobile device making it a very convenient and quick way of converting text and it also offers the option of purchasing additional voices on top of the US and UK male and female voices included. It does, however, only work with plain text files.
Speak it! – is a premium app that costs US $2.49 to purchase from the App Store to be used with iPhones and iPads. It has a range of features that make the sale price very appealing including a word highlight feature, converted files can be easily emailed, as well as being synced directly to DropBox. The app works with PDFs, URLs, Emails and plain text files, which are saved as AIFF files and as such do need to be converted to MP3 for play on Apple devices using iTunes. Additional appeal comes from both US and UK male and female voices, along with variable speaking speeds.