What’s available or new in reading apps for iOS devices?
With hundreds of new apps released everyday fortunately some of them are targeted for individuals with special needs. It has been about 2 years since the first debut of the iPad and it appears as though apps are more robust now than ever, doing more and having more features for individuals with disabilities. So it goes with reading apps, but can they compete with Kurzweil, Read & Write or ClaroRead? No, but there are more and more available to help print disabled access print. Here are some reading apps for iDevices with good quality voices(s) and highlighting of spoken works that supply reading solutions for student or adults who struggle with reading (and some help with writing):
Read2Go - (19.99) Read2Go app is Bookshare.org’s iPad/iPhone app that manages Bookshare members book files. Easy to download files with a membership and easy use and this app provides reading tools as voice selection, speed, auto play, choice of highlighting and highlighted word color, foreground and background color choices and font size setting.
The app reflows the text of the book for individuals needing larger size font, a boon for ease of reading for individuals with visual impairment. Navigation of books and your bookshelf within Read2Go is easy allowing searching and loading of books, newspapers and periodicals easily.
Although this app is not cheap, it is well worth the 20 bucks if you are eligible for membership to Bookshare and have an iPod or iPad. Interested in information about Bookshare? Click Bookshare.org .
ClaroSpeak US Edition app – For iPhone/iPad (5.99) is made by the ClaroRead company, a scan and read program for the computer. ClaroSpeak provides high-quality text to speech reader capable of speaking any accessible text with a range of human high-quality voices. ClaroSpeak offers the options of visual highlighting in sync with the spoken words, a range of colors for font and background and the ability to create audio files from any text using preferred reading speed settings and voice. Text reflows with font size chosen for complete text viewing.
- Synchronized from your computer via iTunes (can be done connected or wirelessly if File sharing is enabled)
- Send files via email, open the file and choose ClaroSpeak to open it in
- Copy and paste it from another source.
Of the choices, sending it via email appears to me to be the easiest method of opening it in ClaroSpeak. Copying and pasting it directly into ClaroSpeak from another source is a bit awkward. No option of creating a new text file is available so I found myself saving over the top of an existing file to rename it. option you only are able to save it. I found myself saving over other older files then saving it as another name which seems very awkward and confusing. Synchronizing a text (txt) file wirelessly worked very well as did connecting the iPad and adding the text file into the ClaroSpeak file sharing tool then sync’g it.
ClaroSpeak has many good accessible reading features for students or individuals with print disability – whether learning or visual. At a cost of 5.99, ClaroSpeak will allow you to access any text using customized setting. Helpful if you need accessible text that you can’t find on Bookshare or have not gotten through other resources that supply accessible instructional material.
AppWriter US iPad app (19.99) provides users of all ages with reading and writing disabilities the tools to access and produce print. It is a very simple format, easy to navigate and use immediately. Although its name suggests that it is for writing, the text to speech capabilities allows it to read documents as well as produce writing using its word prediction tool. Other features it provides for both reading and writing include:
- Settings for read aloud including reading by words, sentences or read characters, voice speed and voice choices. It provides a screen reader which provides text to speech of basic menus or navigation when using the app but which is very subtle in nature.
- Word prediction with auto-space and text to speech with words predicted
- Appearance setting of font size, font color and background color
- Sharing within the app (save as function), email, copy to clipboard, upload to Google Docs or Dropbox
- Adding documents to the app can be performed by creating a document, scanning a document (with its own document scanning and editing tools) or by importing from Google Docs
- Copying and pasting text into AppWriter was easy to perform by creating a new document
- Reads words as you type and will read from the insertion point of the cursor.
AppWriter is an all-purpose, easy to use app with text to speech and word prediction that can support individuals with a print disability. The word prediction offers high frequency word choices were as word completion when you start typing a word provides alphabetical choices. Smart typing, providing a space between words is offered.
I trialed the scanning which had some errors, but not atypical of what I have experienced when scanning with the iPad. Although its camera has been upgraded it still is not the highest quality camera for OCR and maintaining a steady hand to take a picture and good lighting are other huge factors for getting good accuracy with OCR conversion.
I found the ease of transferring files in and out from Google Docs a huge plus and the ability to move it to Dropbox or directly to other apps such as ClaroSpeak, Pages, Notes or GoodReader. Although a bit pricey, this is a very easy to use app and for individuals who need some screen reading to help them navigate, this app provides a very pleasant screen reading voice that subtley guides you within the app. Well thought out app for ease of use and transferring files in an out (I tend to think this is as important as the app features are – why use it if you can’t produce or access files with it?).
Voice Dream Reader app (4.99) helps students and adults with reading difficulties by extracting text from most articles you want to read, and speak the text with text-to-speech technology. The voice is clear and natural. Text highlighting makes it easy to follow the text as it’s being read. Options in the settings are more limited with maximum text size up to 30 and the contrast either being black on gray background or gray on black background. The controls for reading text are offered simply, like controls for listening to music with a forward and back button and pause/play button.
Text to speech capabilities are high quality and additional voices are available as an in app purchase. Translation capabilities are available as is a timer to alert you when reading.
Storing files in the app allow the choice of populating all of your articles, creating a customized playlist or accessing Pocket archives. You can also create your own folders for organization of documents and files within the app.
This app is an advanced app with good quality text to speech and easy navigation within an article loaded. I did have some challenges with loading PDF files but was able to copy and paste information from the Internet into folders to read at a later time. This app has many features but requires sometime to understand all the advanced features available. I would recommend this app for individuals who are tech savvy with transferring files, organizing files and can fluidly manage other on-line or mobile services.
Speak it!- Text to speech app available for iPod, iPhone and iPad (1.99), with features of high quality voices, rate of voice and volume controls. Use the app to type or paste text from another source into the app to use the text to speech tool. Options available include saving the text, create an audio file and saving the audio file.
Speak it! provides the ability to copy, paste and speak the text as shown in the controls above. Quality of the voices were good and additional high quality voices can be purchased. One of the simple features I liked was the ability to Speak at Cursor, allowing better control when you wanted to move forward to have text read aloud, rather than reading all of the text.
In many other apps trialed, most read from the beginning of the paragraph with difficulty being able to select or touch in the text to read a specific word or text. A small feature but functional when skimming for details or vocabulary.
Firefly app is Kurzweil’s iPad app (free) that requires Kurzweil 3000 web-based license to access school or student specific libraries of books, documents or textbook electronic material. Firefly provides a clean interface with text to speech and other print features for individuals who struggle with reading.
Even if you don’t have a web based version of Kurzweil 3000 that is compatible with the Firefly app it provides you with more than 1800 documents of classic public domain books and stories within the free app that does not require any type of membership to access. Check out this recent post of the Firefly app for more information.
There are many more apps available with text to speech capabilities. Here are a few other reviews worth checking out that provide information on text to speech for iOS:
Apps for Literacy Support by the Spectronics Consultancy Team - This is an excellent updated list of apps for literacy geared to special needs.
Text to Speech App to Support for Students with LD - Review of text to speech apps suitable to individuals with print disabilities.
Text to Speech Apps for the iPad - AppAdvice review.
What about reading apps on the Android? That is another post projected to come.
More for your reading, AT or OT iTool Kit!