Text-to-speech (TTS) is an assistive technology. Briefly, assistive technology (AT) is considered any device, piece of equipment or system that helps a person with a disability work around his or her challenges so he or she can learn, communicate and function more easily.
TTS is software that reads digital text aloud. It is sometimes referred to as “read-aloud” technology. With just a click or touch, TTS turns words on a screen into audio. It is not surprising that this technology would be a great help for people who struggle with reading. In addition, TTS can help strengthen writing skills and improve focus and mindfulness.
TTS works with almost all digital devices. Many types of text files and most web pages can be converted into audio with TTS software. The voice in TTS is computer-generated, and reading speed can be moderated – sped up or slowed down as needed, which is particularly important for teaching people with special needs. Many TTS tools highlight words as they are read aloud which allows learners to see the text and hear it at the same time. This creates a multisensory reading experience and removes a major obstacle to decoding reading and language comprehension.
Text-to-speech software has been shown to improve word recognition, increase attention span and increase comprehension compared to reading alone. This is in part because hearing the words while seeing them allows readers to focus on understanding instead of just sounding out words. TTS lets students use their abilities to work on areas of weakness.
It is important to understand that TTS can assist learning. It cannot replace good teaching or a well-designed curriculum. Technology can help a student gain confidence and work independently and it can help individuals set and meet goals, but it is only one tool in a broad range of teaching options. No software can make up for ineffective teaching, and learning and attention problems will not be cured by technology alone.