Zhimin Xie, CUNY Assistive Technology Coordinator, The City College of New York.
Reading proficiency is a key skill required for success in post-secondary education. However, for many reasons, different populations of college students reach higher education without grade-level proficiency. These include students with diagnosed or undiagnosed learning disabilities, English language learners, and students who have experienced educational disadvantage. Research has shown that text-to-speech (TTS) software has been effective at helping English language learners, learning disabled students, and other poor readers improve and compensate for weaknesses in vocabulary, decoding, spelling, and reading fluency. While students with learning disabilities typically have access to specialized TTS software such as Kurzweil 3000, this software is costly and not generally available to students without diagnosed disabilities. However, many smart devices and computers have built-in TTS capabilities or can run no-cost or low-cost TTS apps. This technology has the potential to be beneficial to many different populations of non-proficient readers using the smartphones and other devices they use. This session will introduce participants to TTS technology on Apple, Android and desktop devices, discuss the implications of its use, and provide examples of best practices for implementing the technology relative to different student populations. This presentation is applicable to student support professionals working in such areas as student disability services, writing centers and TRIO Programs. It is also relevant to instructors teaching students who struggle to read course-level materials, including those teaching developmental reading courses.