Speech Aids People With Disabilities

Screen Readers Featured at Adaptive Solutions Event

Speech technology has clearly benefited from the interest of people with disabilities. It has been through their interest that many of the most useful applications in the industry have been developed.

The product development of "reading machines" for the blind has led to breakthroughs in the development of text-to-speech products. And of course, the "menu-busting" benefits of speech recognition are most readily apparent in dealing with people who are blind or visually impaired.

Several such machines were on display at the recent Adaptive Solutions '97 event, sponsored by The Associated Blind, Inc., in New York City. The second annual Adaptive Solutions event featured a "mini-corporation" that simulates key business functions, completely adapted for people who are blind or visually impaired.

"The Associated Blind is taking a great step toward demonstrating that new technologies make every aspect of business management more easily accessible, while simultaneously enhancing general workplace productivity," said Michael Flanigan of Chase Manhattan Bank.

TalkBack to Your PC

TalkBack, a software program from Talking Technologies, allows the user to select text from Windows and have it read aloud. You just select the text from any application, including the web, copy it to the clipboard and press the Play button.

While not designed specially for the visually impaired, it does offer some help. All of the TalkBack commands have keyboard shortcuts so the action of selecting text, copying it to the clipboard and starting-stopping the play mechanism can be accomplished without the mouse.

There are also applications for sighted individuals. Users can listen to e-mail while doing other activities, or review a planned presentation.

The product uses Lernout and Hauspie's advanced speech synthesis to produce a natural voice and a simple dialog box can be accessed by pressing the pause button, allowing the user to alter the voice style, pitch, tone and volume so that you can create your own favorite voice, male or female.

For more information, contact Talking Technologies International Limited, 34A Glasbury Rd., London, W149AS, England or on the web at www.talk-systems.com.

Web-on-Call from NetPhonic

Web-on-Call, a voice browser from NetPhonic Communications, Inc., is a web server software that joins Internet and telephony networks to provide universal access to information on the Web.

Because one system and one set of dates may be used for Web access, Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and Fax-on-Demand, Web-on-Call becomes the one central repository for all information access.

With Web-on-Call Voice Browser software any user with a telephone can access the Internet or any intranet site, without using a computer or modem. With Web-on-Call, users can have information read to them via pre-recorded audio clips of text-to-speech synthesis, navigate using their phone's touch-tone keypad and even have faxes, e-mail or postal mail sent.

For more information, call NetPhonic at 415 962-1111, or to order the Web-on-Call, call 1-888-NETPHONIC (638-7466).

Adaptive Technologies

C-Tech has been selling products for disabled people for over 12 years and has become the largest independent distributor of adaptive equipment in the Northeast.

The company offers electronic video magnifiers which are specifically designed to enlarge printed material for people who have low vision.

Their speech recognition capabilities are factors in their reading systems and personal computer systems. People who are blind, visually impaired, dyslexic or learning disabled can use reading systems from C Tech which convert books and magazines into clear, easy to understand synthetic speech.

Also, the company makes personal computer systems equipped with large-print software of synthetic speech, which allows the user to access any software and the Internet.

For more information, contact C Tech, 2 North William Street, PO Box 30, Pearl River, NY 10965, or call 800 228-7798.

Braille Palmtop

The Aria is a portable palmtop computer specially designed for people who prefer to work with Braille keyboard and voice output. In addition to the DOS operating system, Aria contains a wealth of built in application software, created with an emphasis on power and user-friendliness.

Aria's voice is synthesized using algorithms based on a mathematically modeled human voice tract. The resulting sound can be varied in many respects as the DSP based equalizer allows adjustment of the audio characteristics of the sound to the user's hearing preference.

For more information, contact Technologies for the Visually Impaired, Inc., 9 Nolan Court, Hauppauge, NY 11798.

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