This article was originally published in CAPTIVATING! I’m such a huge book worm, and the Voice Dream Reader app has been such a blessing to me, that I wanted to share it here on my personal blog as well. I also encourage you to check out all the other great articles in CAPTIVATING, a magazine that is breaking barriers and empowering people with disabilities.
Voice Dream Reader: An App that Increases Accessibility for People with Print Disabilities
By: Rev. Rebecca L. Holland, B.S. English Ed & M.Div.
I believe that technology is the great equalizer. My name is Rebecca and I have low vision. I also love to read. In the year 2018, I read over 120 books. The written word is very precious to me. I am a writer and a voracious reader. I refuse to let my low vision keep me from enjoying the written word. Furthermore, extensive reading is needed for my job.
One of the pieces of technology that has allowed me to continue to read voraciously, despite my vision loss, is an application called Voice Dream Reader. Voice Dream Reader is available for $14.99 in the iTunes App Store. I have an iPad and an iPhone 6S+, so my experience of Voice Dream Reader has been the Apple version; however, please know that Voice Dream Reader is also available through Google Play.
Voice Dream Reader is great for people:
-With print disabilities, such as dyslexia
-Who have trouble with eye tracking or focusing their vision
-For people who have difficulty turning pages of print books
-For people whose learning is increased by hearing as well as seeing the text
Hear and See the Text
Studies have shown that students generally retain ten percent of what they read and twenty percent of what they hear; however, students’ learning is greatly increased when they both visualize and hear what they are studying (Lumen, n.d.). That is why we read aloud to children when they are young.
In college and graduate school, I used this application to read my dense textbooks to me. I was able to see and hear the text, which greatly increased my understanding of the complicated ideas that we were studying.
One day, while I was using the Voice Dream Reader to study ancient philosophy, one of my classmates saw what I was doing.
“What app is that?” he asked me. When I told him about the Voice Dream Reader, he was amazed. He exclaimed, “That would really help me! I’m dyslexic!”
Shortly after our conversation, he downloaded the Voice Dream Reader for himself. He used it with great success and was very pleased with all that this small but powerful application had to offer. He particularly liked that the Voice Dream Reader tracked the text and highlighted each word as it read aloud.
I have been using text to speech technology for over a decade. Ten years ago, text to speech technology sounded a lot different. The voices were very robotic and difficult to understand. Text to speech has made huge strides, but I’m particularly pleased with all the voices that are available for the Voice Dream Reader.
When you download the Voice Dream Reader, you will receive a few voices that come prepackaged with the program. These voices are surprisingly good. You can also purchase extra voices with many different accents. I have purchased a variety of American voices, a female voice with an Irish accent, and a male voice with a British accent. I always get a kick out of hearing the work of William Shakespeare or John Wesley read with a British accent!
Choose Your Reading Speed
I’m a fast reader. I speak swiftly, write quickly, and think rapidly. Few things annoy me more than a slow reader. If I can’t turn the speed up on an Audiobook or Podcast to at least two times normal speed, I probably won’t take the time to listen to it; however, I realize that everyone has different tastes and preferences when it comes to reading speed.
I have other friends who prefer things to be read slowly and clearly. Voice Dream Reader allows for this variety of tastes. The average reader reads text at 200-250 words per minute (Nowak, 2018). Voice Dream Reader allows you to crank the speed all the way up to 670 words per minute or reduce the speed to 110 words per minute. The application then automatically adjusts the pitch and inflection of the voice in order to maintain aural clarity. This also prevents it from sounding like a chipmunk is reading to you when you increase the speed!
A Variety of Visual Settings
I usually download books to Voice Dream Reader from Bookshare or Project Gutenberg, but Voice Dream Reader also allows you to import PDF, RTF, DOC, TXT, and ePub files.
Voice Dream allows the user to then select from a variety of visual settings. I prefer to read text that is high contrast¸ so I choose to have my text appear as large white text on a dark blue background. I also choose a bright contrasting color that highlights each word as it as read aloud and a lighter color to highlight the entire line in order to help my eyes with tracking.
A Great Tool for Students & Professionals
Voice Dream Reader is a great tool for both students and professionals. I used this application a great deal in college and graduate school. As a working professional, I continue to use the Voice Dream Reader app almost every day.
This review only begins to scratch the surface of the many tasks of which Voice Dream Reader is capable. Furthermore, in researching this article, I have discovered that there is also a companion to this application available called Voice Dream Writer. It is an app that “proofreads your writing with text to speech.” I would be interested to try Voice Writer and see if it is as good as Voice Dream Reader.
I highly recommend Voice Dream Reader to anyone with a print disability, especially if you are a student, your job requires a lot of reading, or you are a fellow bookworm. Remember- technology is the great equalizer and we can do anything that anyone else can do, we just might do it a little differently!
About the Author:
Rev. Rebecca L. Holland (B.S. English Ed & M.Div.) is a half-Filipino clergywoman with low vision. She is particularly passionate about making spaces more inclusive for people who have been traditionally marginalized, especially women, people of color, and people with disabilities. Her recent chapbook is entitled Through My Good Eye: A Memoir in Verse and is available on Kindle and or in paperback from Amazon. She blogs about faith, diverse books, and disability awareness at BeckieWrites.com.
For more information about the Voice Dream Reader, please see the official Voice Dream Website at http://www.voicedream.com/
Lumen. (n.d.). “Text: Learning Styles.” College Success. Retrieved from: https://courses.lumenlearning.com/waymaker-collegesuccess/chapter/text-learning-styles/
Nowak, P. (29 May 2018). “What Is the Average Reading Speed?” Irish: Reading at the Speed of Thought. Retrieved from: https://www.irisreading.com/what-is-the-average-reading-speed/
If you enjoyed this article, you would probably also enjoy my interview with the world’s first adaptavie snowboarder, Danielle Coulter! You may also enjoy this great infographic about driving with a disability.
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