Whether youíre a person with an actual speech impairment, a professional who deals with persons who have speech problems, or just happen to know someone who uses a speech-generating device (SGD), this article is worth reading.
Itís common knowledge that the price of most SGDs is generally in the thousands of dollars. Never mind that practically all of them are not upgradable and that not everyone has Medicare/Medicaid and/or private insurance, or their own money to cover the cost of purchasing one.
When new technology, in the form of newer and more natural sounding voices, becomes available you have only a few choices with an existing SGD. You can tell yourself how much nicer and more natural the new voices sound, but keep what youíve got because you can afford to do little else. Or, you might even say, ďWow! That sounds so much better, I think Iíll just sell my SGD on eBay and buy this newer modelĒ. But thereís a one more thing you can do.
Build your own speech-generating-device from scratch
Well, maybe having a PC processor capable of running text-to-speech software, along with a sound card isnít exactly starting from scratch, but itís what I mean here. What Iím really saying here is that any computer capable of running text-to-speech applications, (desktop, laptop, mini computer, tablet computer, or netbook) can be instantly turned into an augmentative alternative communication device or SGD. The question is, which one of them is the most practical? In the next few paragraphs Iíll give you step-by-step instructions about how to turn any computer into a speech-generating-device.
Picking the right type of computer for the job
Do you want a fixed location or portability for your SGD solution? If you arenít planning to move around while you use your text-to-speech program, the computer can be on a desk or table like you might want to have in a library or some other public place.
While laptops can serve as SGDs, they are just a little too big to carry around as a portable device. One of the fastest and most popular styled mini pcs being developed by the major computer manufacturers is Acerís Aspire One. As a netbook that retails at only $349.00, this is one of the most powerful and most affordable. The battery lasts for five and a half hours with continuous use and for seven hours in stand-by mode. Itís a good idea to compare the length of a battery charge when making the decision for which mini PC you decide to buy.
Choosing a text-to-speech program
Next, youíll need a text-to-speech software program to run the synthesized voices. There are several choices on the market like NextUp.comís TextAloud and NextUp Talker, we like Etriloquist (etriloquist.com). Besides being free to people who have a speech impairment, itís an excellent program. The option of creating pre-defined phrases and then just clicking on what to say without having to type a whole sentence out is an invaluable tool.
Dspeech at (dimio.altervista.org)
is another free text to speech engine. Itís a more basic program. The best
feature about it is that when the program installs, it does not load anything
into the Windows registry.
Giving voice to your alternative solution
The last thing you need, of course, is the synthesized voice or voices. While they do not come in all languages and styles, there are enough choices to make them interesting. A variety selection of voices to choose from would be perfect for a library for example or some other public place. And for persons whose native languages are other than English, more choices offer the opportunity to communicate as freely as anyone else. A good resource for synthesized voices can be found at http://www.cepstral.com/ .
About the author:
Jay Blocksom is the president and CEO of JITA Technologies. He and his wife Melissa, who has a speech disorder, are the developers of the Speech Assistant, a device that allows persons with speech impairments to talk on both cordless and cell phones without third party intervention. For more information about them and how they use their alternative solutions visit them at: http://www.speechassistant.com/.
Written on March 20, 2009
Copyright Ė March 20, 2009 ©
Contents copyright 2004-2008 by Jeff Cochran, reproduction with attribution
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