Saturday, May 9, 2009

Switch Accessible News Reader

My Blogger pal Barrie over at One Switch brought my attention to the new BBC switch accessible news reader for kids. The website is a well designed interface for children, 'tweens and even teens and adults with cognitive challenges/learning disabilities to read or have read to them via text to speech the news.

Seeing as it is from the BBC the site focuses mainly on UK news, which is why I would love to see PBS, NPR or PRI pair up with BBC and re-create this site with American news (and other countries do the same thing). If that can't happen perhaps News-2-You, who largely ignore access issues, could create something or Ablenet or Mayer-Johnson could leap at the opportunity (which would mean it would not be free, of course).

A great thing about the BBC Accessible News Reader is the level of customization. You can change how many categories of news from 1 to 6, you can use the scan feature or not and adjust it to 3, 5, 10 or 15 seconds for a scan rate. It does not currently two switch scan (except if you turn the scan off and use tab/enter - which means increasing cognitive load as it then scans everything and has no auditory scan). With the scan off you can also use what ever access equipment you have including touch screens, eye or head tracking, alternative keyboard with a custom overlay or a joystick. You can use the text to speech or not and choose from a high quality male or female voice (British accents, of course). You can change the color scheme of the text to high or low contrast or a color overlay for dyslexia (but they do not have a dyslexia friendly font choice in there font choice list). Overall this is an amazing, free resource

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