Some new advances in technology to make communication much easier for the disabled
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to walk into your local coffee shop and try to order your favorite drink, but no one could understand what you were saying? Or, what if you needed help finding an item at the grocery store, and your words did not resemble your thoughts? For some disabled people and people with speech impediments, the seemingly simple pleasure of ordering a latte can feel like climbing a mountain.
Approximately 1.5% of the world’s population lives with a speech disability resulting from a condition such as stroke, brain injury, or cerebral palsy.
Now new technologies are available to make communication much easier for the disabled and help them feel more comfortable in social situations. These technologies provide the benefits of minimizing misinterpretation and allow the disabled to communicate on their own. A disabled person feels socially engaged and more confident knowing that they are understood while people they interact with can focus more on what the disabled person is saying and less on their disability.
Here are some new technologies a speech disabled person might take advantage of:
iSpeech is a high-quality text-to-speech recognition provider for consumers, businesses, and developers.
It is a leading developer of mobile apps and can be used to convert text to speech, convert documents to speech, and convert web content or blogs to speech. It supports over 20 languages, including English, Chinese, French and Spanish. Human quality TTS is available for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry. See www.ispeech.org.
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MyVoice is a GPS enabled app for iPhones and iPads that uses location-aware dialogue and customizable phrases that allow a user to find the words they need quickly.
For example, if a disabled person is at a movie theater, they will be able to pull up the phrase “buy tickets” and the device will speak the phrase for them. The app can also be programed to pull up your regular order when you visit a favorite restaurant or café. See www.myvoiceacc.com.
Talkitt translates users’ pronunciation into understandable speech and plays back words on a smartphone or tablet.
This technology was developed when one of its co-founder’s grandmother had a stroke and experienced speech difficulties. Talkitt can also help those with ALS, Cerebral Palsy, brain damage, autism, or Parkinson’s disease. The makers of Talkitt say it will work with any language and that it can even translate between languages. See www.talkitt.com.
Eye tracking is a field of monitoring what people do with their eyes – what they look at and how their eyes move. Eyegaze Edge is an eye-operated communication system that enables speech disabled people to communicate with others by looking at control keys or cells displayed on a screen. A user generates speech by “typing” a message or choosing a pre-programmed phrase simply by looking at certain keys for a specified period of time, usually ½ second. Eyegaze Edge claims several advantages that will appeal to a disabled person:
- It is highly accurate
- The system can be operated from any position, including lying on one’s side or with the head tilted
- The program is designed to reduce visual fatigue
- The system is very fast
- The system works in low light
- The user does not need to be parallel to the screen
- The system tracks through eyeglasses and most contacts
Eyegaze is used by individuals with a variety of disabling conditions to attend school, enhance the quality of their life and even write books. www.eyegaze.com.
Despite the view that some social technology is overused, for the disabled it is a necessary form of interaction. Of course, there is always room for advancement, but current technology and design in speech augmentation systems are improving the lives of the disabled daily.
Disability benefits are an important source of income for those who are unable to work. If you not able to work due to accident or illness, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability or Long Term Disability benefits. If you have applied for benefits and been denied, contact the attorneys at Bemis, Roach and Reed for a free consultation. Call 512-454-4000 and get help NOW.
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