Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Scanning Software, Text-to-Speech, and Text-to-Audio File

This is part of a series of blogs our Director, Alan Knue, has composed to help people increase their reading and writing efficiency

It is Monday, and your English teacher just gave you a short story to read out of a book. Your biology teacher just uploaded a 10 page electronic PDF for you to read. You are expected to read both assignments by the end of the week for discussion in class. Reading isn’t easy for you and if only these documents were provided in an accessible text format, then you could use your handy AT software with text-to-speech to help you work your way through these documents.
I didn’t have any AT options in school, so I was rarely able to read fast enough to complete a reading assignment on time and failed many tests because I couldn’t keep up. I had to rely on peer discussion groups and teacher lectures to cover the reading material to actually learn what was in those various texts. By college I had become a human tape recorder, memorizing practically everything said in conversations, in lectures, and in study groups.
Today, what AT do I use? If I need to read printed material, I can set up my flatbed scanner and use a feature in ClaroRead called "Scan from Paper." By taking what is essentially a photograph of a page it applies a slick piece of software known as optical character recognition or OCR to the page. Of course the better the printed copy, the better the program will be able to recognize text on the page. Students and their support team using any program with a built in OCR, like ClaroRead, will need to be able to find places where the OCR didn’t do such a good job and correct the mistakes before having a “clean” copy. TTS can certainly help with the clean-up of a scanned document by aiding students in finding incorrect words.
What about the electronic PDF reading assignment? ClaroRead has a nifty “Scan from PDF/File” feature which applies OCR to the electronic PDF rather than first having to scan a printed copy. Of course, it would make a student’s life far easier if these documents were already in a good electronic format, but that is a whole other discussion.
ClaroRead takes this all one step further. You can also convert electronic text to an audio file (mp3) that you could then listen to on an iPod, Zune, or any other mp3 player. The “Save as Audio” feature is handy for short documents, but anything too long, and then it becomes difficult to find where you left off in your listening. Books and magazines are often available in other electronic formats, such as the Daisy format, and these will be discussed on our blog in later posts.
ClaroRead is not the only AT software available with strong scanning and OCR, and text-to-speech or audio file capabilities. Contact our AT Specialists for a demonstration of the available options.

No comments:

Post a Comment