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BrowseAloud is assistive technology that adds text-to-speech functionality to websites. It is designed by Texthelp Ltd, a Northern-Ireland based company that specialises in the design of assistive technology. BrowseAloud adds speech and reading support tools to online content to extend the reach of websites for people who require reading support. This includes those with dyslexia, learning difficulties, mild visual impairments and those with English as a second language. These groups benefit from the audio-visual reinforcement of online content when using BrowseAloud.
This ‘zero download’ solution delivers instant high quality speech from an easy-to-use, floating toolbar. New Features Include: MP3 Maker, Text Magnifier, Screen Mask, New ‘Expressive’ Voices (43 in total), Improved PDF Reading, Improved Secure Site Reading, Improved Panel and Extended and Scrollable Toolbars. Continued Functionality Includes: Pronunciation Control, Voice Selection and Language Selection. BrowseAloud uses dual-colour highlighting which highlights the block of text in one colour and the spoken word in another to give a clear indication of what text is being read aloud.
Richard Walters of Erewash Borough Council said that it fills their equalities commitments because Browsealoud reads web content in extremely high quality streaming voices and has the ability to simultaneously display scrolling text. Northumberland health said that they use it for their website because it makes it easier for people with a physical or visual impairment to get information on local health services in their area. The software won a New Media Award.
Technical comment on BrowseAloud has been less favourable. Criticism focussed on the need to use a mouse to select text before BrowseAloud would read it. This required vision and motor skills to use, making BrowseAloud inaccessible to groups that could use other screen readers, such as JAWS. However the developer states that it is not designed to replace traditional screenreaders, instead it is designed to help those with language, learning and cognitive disabilities.