Cross-cultural study into the use of text to speech with electronic files to aid access to textbooks

E. A. Draffan*, Mike Wald, Mamoru Iwabuchi, Maiko Takahashi, Kenryu Nakamura

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Objective. At present, pupils, teachers and parents struggle with the lack of textbooks and supporting materials in accessible formats that can be used by pupils with visual or print impairment including specific reading difficulties such as dyslexia. Independent projects in Japan and the UK were conceived to assess whether the provision of textbooks and teaching materials as electronic files, along with technologies to convert and 'read' them could provide a new and sustainable model and enhance the skills of the users. Main Content. In the UK, 40 students with print impairment were presented with Microsoft Windows XP system laptops that had specialist text to speech software. The software either provided full screen reading with highlighting and magnification or a tool bar above the etext provided in MS Word document format. The latter allowed for text resizing, colour changes, reading speed options, voice preferences and text highlighting. In Japan, Apple iPads were given to 30 self-selecting students (some of whom were dyslexic) over a period of 10 weeks. There was the option to use a 'Touch and Read' application which offered text to speech and phrase highlighting with an outlined box around the characters in vertical mode. These etext books were presented in PDF format with the same look and feel as the actual text books used by the rest of the class. Results. Over 90% of the students involved in the projects aged between 10 and 14 years showed improvements in self-esteem, continued to be motivated and there were clear indications that the use of the technology aided both reading skills and confidence levels. Teachers supporting the students in the UK study commented on significant improvements in reading skills for those who had dyslexia and improved concentration for those with visual impairments. Time saved by the use of electronic texts was also commented upon in relation to the provision of alternative formats. In the Japanese study, students chose to use the 'Touch and Read' software preferring the look and feel of the original text books and without training soon learnt to zoom and scroll on the iPads. Conclusion. The projects confirmed that making teaching materials available to print and visually impaired students in an appropriate electronic form along with access technologies to read them can make a significant difference to their reading, writing, confidence, development and inclusion. The same electronic materials can also provide productivity savings for staff in schools and local authorities who support, in particular, visually impaired students.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEveryday Technology for Independence and Care. AAATE 2011
EditorsGert Jan Gelderblom, Mathijs Soede, Leon Adriaens, Klaus Miesenberger
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Dec 1
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameAssistive Technology Research Series
ISSN (Print)1383-813X
ISSN (Electronic)1879-8071


  • Alternative formats
  • etexts
  • laptops and iPads
  • print impairment
  • text to speech

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)


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