Turn Your iOS Device into a Content Reader – Tools for Dyslexia Part 1

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As an adult with dyslexia, I experience a kind of exhaustion after reading and writing for extended periods of time. But as an author, reading and writing are critical to my ongoing success. So I’ve been experimenting with different technologies in an attempt to increase my speed and decrease my overall fatigue.

There are great applications for dictation available like Dragon Naturally Speaking, but what about tools that help with reading? Do I need to spend a lot of money on applications and services that can assist me?

The answer is a resounding “NO.”

As a matter of fact, what I’m about to show you is absolutely free. Everything you need to turn your iPhone or iPad into a Text-to-Speech reading device is available directly out of the box.

Here are the step-by-step instructions on how to enable text-to-speech features on an Apple iOS device.

How To Activate Text-to-Speech:

  1. On your Apple iOS device (these are the same steps on an iPhone or iPad) select the “Settings” app

    select the Settings app
  2. Select “General”

    Select General
  3. Select “Accessibility”

    Select Accessibility
  4. Select “Speech.”

    Select Speech
  5. Activate both “Speak Selection” (A) and “Speak Screen” (B).

    Speech selections
    NOTE: For everyday use, these two are by far the best tools for a dyslexic. I’ll explain more in the below section on how to use the tools.
  6. Select “Voices” and choose the voice you can understand the best. I like “Alex”, but this is a personal preference.

    Select Voices 1 of 2
    Select Voices 2 of 2

    NOTE: If it’s not a default voice (i.e. Siri) you will need to download the voice first, so being connected to wifi is recommended.
  7. Next, select “Speaking Rate”. The slider adjusts the reading speed, with slower being toward the tortoise and faster being toward the hare. You can leave this at the default setting and adjust up as you become more accustomed to faster reading speeds. I like to keep mine set at a little faster than the default setting. Keep in mind that non-dyslexics read between 200 and 300 words per minute (wpm). The default rate for text-to-speech on an iOS device is 175 wpm. So it’s important to increase the text-to-speech speed over time to keep up with standard reading rates.

    select Speaking Rate

    OPTIONAL: If you would like to follow along visually as the text is read, select “Highlight Text.” I think this would be good for younger readers, but I find it distracting.

    Highlight Text
  8. Exit out of the “Settings” app and return to home screen.

How To Use Text-to-Speech:

  1. If you launch any application that has text; instant messages, emails, webpages, notes, etc… and you select some of the text by double-tapping on the screen, you will now see a “Speak” button has been added to the default menu above the highlighted words. By selecting “Speak” those words will now be read to you outloud.

    Speak Highlighted Text
  2. Additionally, if you go to any web page, note, news article, etc. and swipe down from the top of the screen with two fingers it will bring up a new control panel and begins reading the entire page. From the control panel, you can adjust reading speed, pause the audio, go forward or back and stop the voice over completely.

    Speak Page 1 of 2

    Speak Page 2 of 2
    NOTE: if you tap the arrow facing left it collapses the control panel. This will happen after a couple of seconds regardless if you tap it or not. To bring it back, simply click the arrow (now facing to the right) and it will expand back to the full control panel. The “X” will close this panel completely.

How To Turn Any eBook Into An Audio Book:

In my opinion “VoiceOver” can be a double-edged sword. It’s hard to use, and can sometimes be more work than it’s worth. However, it’s the best way to have long documents and eBooks read to you.

Here are my steps for using VoiceOver without some of the hassle:

  1. Under the “Accessibility” section, select “VoiceOver.”
  2. step11

  3. DON’T turn this on yet. It makes it very hard to navigate with “VoiceOver” activated. (A)
  4. Select “Speak Rate” as before, and select the most comfortable listening speed. (B)
  5. Select “Voice” as before, choosing your desired preference for the style and gender of the voice that will read the text. (C)
  6. VoiceOver options

  7. Exit out of Settings and go back to home screen
  8. Select an eBook. (This can be on any e-reader, I use the Amazon Kindle app, but Apple’s iBook, Kobo, and Nook also work.
  9. Triple-click the home button. (For reference, the home button is the round button at the bottom front of the iPad or iPhone.

    NOTE: This is probably the most difficult step of the entire process. You will have to practice the Triple-click a couple of times in order to get a feel for the motion. Sometimes it will only register as a double-click and not work properly. Just keep on trying until you hear the computerized voice say, “VoiceOver On.”
  10. From now on, if you click on anything on the screen, the voice will read what is selected. This can be helpful, but I find it makes it very challenging and slow to navigate, so I only use this for what is called “Continuous Reading.”
  11. To activate “Continuous Reading” swipe down from the top of the screen with TWO fingers. This will then read everything on the screen and continue reading until you stop it, or until the book is complete.
  12. To stop “VoiceOver,” Triple-click the home button again.

    NOTE: You will know this is successfully turned off when the voice says, “VoiceOver Off.”

I’ve found these two essential functions within iOS very helpful in helping to eliminate the fatigue I usually experience with long periods of reading.

If you have any additional tips you would like to share, or would like to reach out with any comments or questions, please write me below.

-Anthony

About Anthony A. Kerr

Anthony A. Kerr has always been a storyteller. Whether it was acting out elaborate plots with Star Wars figures when he was little, writing really, really, bad movies in high school, or creating weekly comic strips at work. Stories are always swirling around in his head, yelling at him to put them down on paper. Anthony grew up in Wooster, OH and currently lives in Denver, CO with his wife and three children.
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