What is Speech Synthesis?

Speech synthesis, or text-to-speech, is a category of software or hardware that converts text to artificial speech. A text-to-speech system is one that reads text aloud through the computer's sound card or other speech synthesis device. Text that is selected for reading is analyzed by the software, restructured to a phonetic system, and read aloud. The computer looks at each word, calculates its pronunciation then says the word in its context (Cavanaugh, 2003).

How can speech synthesis help your students?

Speech synthesis has a wide range of components that can aid in the reading process. It assists in word decoding for improved reading comprehension (Montali & Lewandowski, 1996). The software gives voice to difficult words with which students struggle by reading either scanned-in documents or imported files (such as eBooks). In word processing, it will read back students' typed text for them to hear what they have written and then make revisions. The software provides a range in options for student control such as tone, pitch, speed of speech, and even gender of speaker. Highlighting features allow the student to highlight a word or passage as it is being read.

Who can benefit from speech synthesis?

According to O'Neill (1999), there are a wide range of users who may benefit from this software, including:

  • Students with a reading, learning, and/or attention disorder
  • Students who are struggling with reading
  • Students who speak English as a second language
  • Students with low vision or certain mobility problems

What are some speech synthesis programs?

eReader by CAST

The CAST eReader has the ability to read content from the Internet, word processing files, scanned-in text or typed-in text, and further enhances that text by adding spoken voice, visual highlighting, document navigation, page navigation, type and talk capabilities. eReader is available in both Macintosh and Windows versions.

40 Harvard Mills Square, Suite 3
Wakefield, MA 01880-3233
Tel: 781-245-2212
Fax: 781-245-5212
TTY: 781-245-9320
E-mail: cast@cast.org

ReadPlease 2003
This free software can be used as a simple word processor that reads what is typed.

ReadPlease ReadingBar
ReadingBar (a toolbar for Internet Explorer) allows users to do much more than they were able to before: have web pages read aloud, create MP3 sound files, magnify web pages, make text-only versions of any web page, dictionary look-up, and even translate web pages to and from other languages. ReadingBar is not limited to reading and recording web pages - it is just as good at reading and recording text you see on your screen from any application. ReadingBar is often used to proofread documents and even to learn other languages.

ReadPlease Corporation
121 Cherry Ridge Road
Thunder Bay, ON, Canada - P7G 1A7
Phone: 807-474-7702
Fax: 807-768-1285

Read & Write v.6
Software that provides both text reading and work processing support. Features include: speech, spell checking, homophones support, word prediction, dictionary, word wizard, and teacher's toolkit.

textHELP! Systems Ltd.
Enkalon Business Centre,
25 Randalstown Road,
Co. Antrim
BT41 4LJ
N. Ireland

Kurweil 3000
Offers a variety of reading tools to assist students with reading difficulties. Tools include: dual highlighting, tools for decoding, study skills, and writing, test taking capabilities, web access and online books, human sounding speech, bilingual and foreign language benefits, and network access and monitoring.

Kurzweil Educational Systems, Inc.
14 Crosby Drive
Bedford, MA 01730-1402
From the USA or Canada: 800-894-5374
From all other countries: 781-276-0600

Max's Sandbox
In MaxWrite (the Word interface), students type and then hear "Petey" the parrot read their words. In addition, it is easy to add the student's voice to the document (if you have a microphone for your computer). It is a powerful tool for documenting student writing and reading and could even be used in creating a portfolio of student language skills. In addition, MaxWrite has more than 300 clip art images for students to use, or you can easily have students access your own collection of images (scans, digital photos, or clip art). Student work can be printed to the printer you designate and saved to the folder you determine (even network folders).

Publisher: eWord Development

Where can you find more information about speech synthesis?

Research Articles

   MacArthur, Charles A. (1998). Word processing with

speech synthesis and word prediction: Effects on the

dialogue journal writing of students with learning
disabilities. Learning Disability Quarterly, 21(2),

Descriptive Articles

Atkinson, T., Neal, J., & Grechus, M. (2003). Microsoft
windows XP accessibility features, Intervention in
School and Clinic,
 38(3), 177-180.
Cavanaugh, T. (2002). Ebooks and accomodations.
Teaching Exceptional Children, 35(2), 56-61.
Cavanaugh, T. (2003). Text-to-speech & speech-to-text Ð
applications across abilities and grade levels.
Library Media Collection, 49-52.
Forgrave, K. E. (2002). Assistive technology:
Empowering students with learning disabilities.
The Clearing House, 75(3), 122-126.
MacArthur, C. A., Ferretti, R. P., Okolo, C. M.,
Cavalier, A. R. (2001). Technology applications
for students with literacy problems: A critical review.
The Elementary School Journal, 101(3), 273-301.
MacArthur, C. A. (1996). Using technology to enhance
the writing processes of students with learning
disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 29(4),
Montali, J., & Lewandowski, L. (1996). Bimodal reading:
Benefits of a talking computer for average and
less skilled readers. Journal of Learning Disabilities,
29(3), 271-279.
O'Neill, L. M. (1999). eReader: A technology
key for reading success. The Exceptional Parent,
29(12), 54D.


Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST)
Founded in 1984 as the Center for Applied Special Technology, CAST is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to expand educational opportunities for individuals with disabilities through the development and innovative uses of technology. CAST advances Universal Design for Learning (UDL), producing innovative concepts, educational methods, and effective, inclusive learning technologies based on theoretical and applied research. To achieve this goal, CAST:

  • Conducts applied research in UDL,
  • Develops and releases products that expand opportunities for learning through UDL,
  • Disseminates UDL concepts through public and professional channels.

LD Online
LD OnLine is a collaboration between public broadcasting and the learning disabilities community. The site offers a wide range of articles and links to information on assistive technology such as speech synthesis.