Going From Print to Speech For Visually Disabled Individuals

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Going From Print to Speech For Visually Disabled Individuals

Often History students need to access older books that are not available in accessible text to speech format. If you are a student you're university may ofter a service to help you convert printed text into an accessible format.

If you do not have access to this type of assistance you can do it yourself or depending on how severe your visual impairment is with some help. It will require a scanner and some software, but for under $400 you should be able to setup a printed text to speech process that you can work with quickly and efficiently.

The Process of Going From Printed Text to Speech.

Before you start make sure you have all necessary permissions from any copyright holders for this process.

Step One: Preparing the Printed Book

  • Option One: If you own the book and don't mind disassembling the book.
    Remove the cover including the spine cover of the book.
    Split the book into sections that are small enough to cut the glue off the edges.
    (the glue will easily separate)
    Use a paper cutter to slice off the glued edges of the pages. A commercial printer such as FedEx/Kinkos can remove the cover and slice the glue off the pages for you.
    You should now have a bunch of loose leaf pages that can be scanned.
  • ABE Books is my first resource for finding old books. When purchasing you can get the cheapest poorest condition book because it will fit your needs as well as a brand new volume. Just make sure there are not a lot of markings or highlights in the text because this will interfere with text recognition accuracy. Disassembling a book at the after its been throughly used or damaged is somehow easier on the mind.

My local Kinkos/FedEx will do this for me for $3 per book and it takes them a couple of minutes.

  • Option Two: If you do not own or do not want to disassemble the book
    Photocopy each individual page of the book or the section you need. Don't photo copy pages side by side, you should have a photocopy for each page.
    You should now have a bunch of loose leaf pages that can be scanned.

Step Two: Scan Your Pages and turn them into readable text

  • Place the pages in your scanner and use the scanning software to create scans of the pages. An automatic document feeder can be very helpful.
  • You can use an "All in one" style device that combines a printer and scanner or a dedicated scanner. It doesn't have to be expensive because you're not scanning anything high quality and normally black and white. The automatic document feeder is usually an important accessory.
  • Some scanners will save as in an editable text or PDF format. This text recognition may not be very good.
  • If you need better (more accurate) text recognition software, consider using OmniPage OCR Software. Some versions of OmniPage have Text to Speech built in and often will do batch jobs that can be recorded for easier repetition.

Step Three

  • If you disassembled the book, store the loose leafs or dispose of them in a respectful fashion.

Once the pages are scanned and converted into readable text you can use your screen reading software, such as JAWS or Natural Reader to convert it to speech.