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Scottish Schools Browsealoud Trial

by Paul Nisbet

on Fri Dec 18, 2009

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This is a chance for you to help improve the accessibility of Glow. If Glow is to fulfil it's aims it needs to be accessible to every pupil in Scotland and one way of helping many pupils with visual or reading difficulties is through 'text-to-speech' software, so that pupils can have material on Glow read out to them by the computer. There are many text-to-speech programs for reading different types of digital text, such as:

  • Rod Macaulay's WordTalk (which you can download free from CALL), can read out Word documents, for example, or
  • TextHelp's PDFaloud, which can read PDFs such as digital textbooks or SQA exam papers,

but we also need a program for reading text from the web itself.

Again there are several options (see Allan's Reading the Web guide at  https://www.callscotland.org.uk/Resources/Publications/Information-Sheets/) , and one of them is Browsealoud from TextHelp Systems. Browsealoud is a free program that reads 'speech-enabled' web sites and also Word and PDF files on the web sites.TextHelp have agreed to 'speech-enable' the CALL Scotland and LTS web sites and also Glow until the end of January 2010, for us to evaluate. CALL’s speech-enabled web sites are:

All LTS web sites (http://www.ltscotland.org.uk/) and also everything accessed through the Glow portal are speech-enabled.The pilot Books for All Scotland Database at http://www.booksforallscotland.org.uk/ is also speech-enabled.To read the web sites with Browsealoud you need to download it from http://www.browsealoud.com/page.asp?pg_id=80004.Jennifer MacDougal from LTS has agreed to set up a discussion forum for the Glow users and so once you have tried out Browsealoud on Glow, go to My Glow Groups > ASN Group and add your comments about it to the discussion. The direct URL for this is https://portal.glowscotland.org.uk/establishments/nationalsite/Additional%20Support%20for%20Learning/Lists/Pages/Discussions.aspxBrowsealoud is essentially a tool for reading web sites with text-to-speech software. It can help pupils with visual impairment, dyslexia, reading and learning difficulties or pupils who are not fluent English readers access information on web sites. It can speak using a number of different voices including Heather, the Scottish voice. To take part in this trial, download and run Browsealoud and then test it on Glow or on the CALL or LTS websites, and then log any comments or issues on the Glow group. If you can’t access Glow send an email to CALL at callscotland@ed.ac.uk. LTS are currently looking at how the accessibility of Glow can be improved, and a text-to-speech facility could be extremely useful, if not essential, for thousands of pupils in Scotland (not much point in having a national intranet if it isn’t accessible to all pupils in Scotland). Browsealoud is only one option for reading the web and so you might also like to look at some others such as Click Speak, a free add-on for Firefox, but it  is really important that we all have a chance to test this particular tool to find out if it does what we all want. Please comment on whether you think Browsealoud would help pupils access Glow, as well as any problems that you come across. Take a look at the video tours and user guides on the Browsealoud web site as well see http://www.browsealoud.com/page.asp?pg_id=80006We’re aware that you won’t have much time before the end of term, but no doubt some keen people will be unable to resist the temptation to play with Browsealoud over the break, and there will be a few weeks at the start of next term for you to try it.Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year

Tags: text-to-speech, accessibility, assistive technology, Glow

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