ITQ4AIT: Evaluating text to speech options for blogs

September 7, 2010 at 10:45 am

Those of us working as TechDis Accredited Trainers have also been piloting and completing the new ITQ for Accessible IT Practice. This is an excellent qualification to raise and inclusion awareness and understanding amongst staff, regardless of their job role, and to hopefully take this understanding and the support of disabilities and individual needs outside of the specialist roles such as learning support staff etc.

One of the core units is the Text to Speech (TTS) unit and part of this is to evaluate at least 3 different utilities or software which provide or include TTS functionality. For my research and completion of this unit I wanted to explore options which work online with blogs and ideally applications which provide additional functionality such as downloading the TTS as an audio file and/or an automatic podcasting feed and where possible other accessibility benefits. I also wanted to focus on solutions which made it easy for a blog visitor to listen to the text from a blog post without having to install any software and ideally not have to download software or have it already installed.

After some research I decided to try three different tools which I could add to my self-hosted WordPress blog to enable listening to at least some of the blog posts and page. I say “at least some” because even without testing I realised that not all posts would work successfully given the range of multimedia content e.g. I’m quite often demonstrating how to email multi-media content and various file attachments to blogs as part of training sessions so the heading of the post will be text but the main content may be a video or document which is unlikely to be converted.

This particular blog post is not only a summary of this testing but also one of the specific posts I used to complete these tests. The results and conclusions were then added after testing.

I added and enabled the plugins or code required to include these options in my blog and the three different tools I selected to test and evaluate are as follows:

TechDis Toolbar
This can be added to any website or blog or vle simply by adding some code and provides many more accessibility benefits than just TTS. Further info and code available at http://access.ecs.soton.ac.uk/ToolBar/

VozMe
This is a free service which again provides the relevant code to add to different blogging tools. It doesn’t provide the additioanl benefits of the TechDis toolbar but does provide a link to download the TTS conversion as a .mp3 file and also the blog owner can choose between male and female voices as well as how the link appears. Further info and code available at http://vozme.com

Odiogo
This is another free service which provides TTS embedded with each blog post as well as an automatically generated podcast feed for subscribing to or download the posts as .mp3 files. Further info and code available at http://www.odiogo.com/

Evaluation and conclusions to be added soon… Now attached: TTS_analysis1

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