What is the Nature of Synthetic Speech? This question is actually several questions. The first is: "What are the basic attributes of computer generated speech?" The second is: "How does one control what is spoken from an entire page?" "Which software processes and functions exist in a well designed assistive reading environment for computer users who are blind?"

Note: This site is not a reference for assistive devices. For a more complete description, refer to American Foundation for the Blind: Speech Systems to get additional background and specifics.

Below is a simulation of what the "main page" of this section sounds like in slow synthetic speech. It is "slow" in the sense that most blind users would employ a much higher speed. And, frequently, a mix of speeds - depending on mode: scanning / reading / exploring. And, this voice does not change pitch when encountering links or font styles.

What might the main blindness page sound like?

Can you read without looking at the screen?

How do we read text? What is the experience of reading visually? In what ways is this different from tactile mode? What is the experience of an entire page of text in audio mode?

Listen with eyes closed and think about what controls you would want if audio were your only access mode. (Note for visual readers: you can Open a new window / tab to see the "main page.")

Audio Disclaimer

The MOV file referenced above should start "automagically" with QuickTime. If not, there are several options: Install QuickTime from Apple; use a "normal" browser; download the MEPG file and listen to it in your client audio system of choice.

Navigating vs. Reading

How does one navigate a site?

What does "explore this site" mean when the access is only by speech synthesis? How would you want navigation expressed?

image: man with cane

How does one navigate a page?

What functions would you need?

  • Speak Navigation
  • Speak Main Content
  • Indicate scrolling of page
  • Speak Content Links
  • Speak paragraph, line, column...
  • Spell word...

Does the site / page design support these functions?