What is Text-to-Speech?

Imagine if your books could talk! With text-to-speech (TTS) technology, they can. From War and Peace to DMs, the machine can read it all out loud. And it doesn’t even need to sound like a robot. Once just a sci-fi dream, TTS now brings words to life — with the voice of your choice

For those supporting Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals, in education or at work, TTS offers a bridge to conversations with hearing peers by transforming text into spoken conversation that's more engaging and inclusive than ever. 

With the recent addition of realistic voices, there’s almost no stigma associated with this technology. In fact, custom voices can well represent Deaf individuals' actual voices.

Let's dive into how this tech is changing the game in accessibility — and how that game has changed significantly in the last few months.

Understanding Text-to-Speech
Text-to-Speech (TTS) technology is a form of assistive technology, originating in the mid-20th century, that converts written text into spoken words, allowing digital content to be more accessible, especially for those with disabilities. 

It functions by analyzing and synthesizing text, then producing spoken voice output, which can be a lifeline for individuals with low vision, reading difficulties, or those who don’t use their voice to communicate. This evolution reflects a deeper understanding of diverse needs and the importance of inclusive technology, making digital content more accessible and empowering for all individuals with disabilities.

Everyday Application of Text-to-Speech

Text-to-speech technology is woven into the fabric of daily life, especially for those who have low vision. It serves as a voice for everything from navigation systems, guiding users through unfamiliar streets, to smart home devices, enabling control through spoken commands. TTS transforms routine tasks into accessible experiences, whether it's reading aloud the contents of an email or providing auditory cues in public transportation systems.

2,800+ Blind Person Stock Videos and Royalty-Free Footage - iStock | Blind  person computer, Blind person walking, Blind person working

Text-to-speech technology is a game-changer for non-voicing individuals, including those who are Deaf and hard-of-hearing, by leveling the playing field in a predominantly hearing world. It gets Deaf people noticed by hearing people, allowing more participation in all types of conversations, especially meetings.

With text-to-speech, clearer and more authentic conversations can transform various settings, from casual chats at a coffee shop to professional presentations at work or school. By converting typed text into spoken words, TTS provides a platform for effective communication, bridging gaps and facilitating smoother, more inclusive interactions in everyday life. 

This empowers Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals to engage more fully and confidently in diverse social and professional environments. These everyday applications of TTS technology underscore its role as an essential tool in enhancing independence and accessibility in a technology-driven world.

Text-to-Speech at Work

Imagine yourself in a meeting where you can only receive information but not respond back. That is the situation for many non-voicing Deaf people. Meetings become lectures rather than being interactive. It’s completely inequitable.

Text-to-speech technology radically changes how Deaf people can participate in the workplace, opening up new prospects for jobs and promotion. 

It offers valuable communication solutions for non-voicing employees. For instance, in meetings, they can type their contributions, with TTS vocalizing them in real-time, ensuring that they get noticed and can participate actively. 

Text-to-speech can also be used for delivering presentations, where typed text is transformed into clear, audible speech. It's invaluable during training sessions, where TTS can read out instructional content, allowing for equal learning opportunities. Additionally, TTS aids in everyday office interactions, facilitating smooth conversations with colleagues and clients.

For more information on how to get Ava for your organization, click here.

Text-to-Speech at School

In educational settings, non-voicing students can take advantage of text-to-speech for various activities. They can participate in group discussions by typing their input, which is then spoken by TTS, fostering inclusive classroom engagement. During presentations, TTS can articulate their prepared text, ensuring their ideas are heard clearly by all. 

Text-to-speech also assists in language learning, where hearing the pronunciation of words can be crucial. Moreover, it's useful for responding to teachers' questions in real-time, maintaining the flow of classroom interactions.

For more information on how to get Ava for your institution, click here.

More Human, Less Robot — Optimizing Text-to-Speech

The diversity of text-to-speech systems extends beyond mere functionality; they offer a highly customizable experience, adapting to different languages, accents, and speech rates to meet user needs. This adaptability is crucial for ensuring digital content is inclusive and accessible to a wide audience. 

The evolution towards more nuanced, human-like speech in TTS systems has greatly enhanced the user experience. This natural-sounding speech is not just more pleasant to listen to, but also significantly improves comprehension and engagement, especially for individuals who rely on TTS for daily communication and learning. The human-like quality in TTS voices helps bridge the gap between digital text and the natural, conversational manner in which people communicate, making technology more approachable and relatable — better connecting Deaf and hearing worlds.

Ava's Founder Inspires a TTS Breakthrough: Ava Voice

Building on the adaptability of TTS systems, Ava, an organization by and for the Deaf, has introduced Ava Voice in its captioning app. This update brings nuanced, human-like male, female, and gender-neutral voices, enhancing communication options for non-voicing users. Inspired by one of Ava's founders, who is Deaf and traditionally non-voicing, these improvements have significantly impacted his professional interactions, especially in meetings. This step by Ava underscores their commitment to creating technology that truly resonates with and empowers the Deaf community, ensuring their voices are heard in every sense.

Learn more about Ava's Text-to-Speech.

Founders Thibault and Skinner preparing dinner together. Thibault is speaking to Ava and Skinner is reading real-time caption on his phone.

The Future and Ethics of Text-to-Speech

The evolution of text-to-speech technology is poised to embrace more sophisticated AI-driven capabilities, particularly in expressing tone, which could add layers of expression for non-voicing individuals. This advancement in conveying emotions and intonations will enrich communication, providing a more dynamic and nuanced user experience. However, as TTS continues to evolve, ethical considerations remain paramount, especially in ensuring fairness and preventing biases in AI algorithms. The future of TTS, with a focus on tone and emotional expression, will be a significant step in further empowering users to convey their thoughts and feelings more effectively, bridging the gap in digital communication for all.

Text-to-speech technology has proven to be a transformative force in the realm of assistive technology. It has not only made digital content accessible to a wider audience but also empowered individuals with disabilities to communicate and learn more effectively. Looking ahead, TTS is poised to break new grounds in accessibility and inclusivity. Its evolution, deeply intertwined with advancements in AI, promises a future where digital voices are more than just a tool — they are a bridge towards a more inclusive and accessible world.