Leading text-to-speech app is now free for the blind

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iOS and iPadOS

I am the developer of the app Speech Central, one of the leading text-to-speech apps in terms of features, user satisfaction, growth and overall usage. Starting from August 1st 2021 the app is completely free for the blind people without any hidden cost.

There is no trick, my revenues from other users are enough to support the ongoing development of the app and I have decided to help to those in need. I believe that the app meets or exceeds the features of other leading text-to-speech apps and I'll be glad to hear opinions and suggestions for the new features and improvements.

You can get the app from the App Store using this link: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/speech-central-voice-reader/id1127349155 and if you are using VoiceOver the app will detect it and won't ask you for any purchase.

P.S. at the moment the app exists for the macOS too, but as it is a paid app it is not possible to detect whether the user uses some assistive technology before the purchase and as such it is technically impossible to make it free for the blind users only.

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Comments

Submitted by Dave Matters on Monday, August 2, 2021

This app is indeed the best. This is very gracious, thank you.
Dave Matters

Submitted by Malthe on Monday, August 2, 2021

This is awesome. I really like the mac app, and will definitely get this as well - thank you very much!

Submitted by Dawn 👩🏻‍🦯 on Monday, August 2, 2021

Hello!

I have heard of your app before, but, never had the funds to use it.
I'm completely blind, and a tech nerd to boot. Because I'm a geek, I'm always on the lookout for any apps like yours or other similar assistive tech apps that could help me. So, I'm always either looking at apps, or trying and playing around with new apps.

Thanks to you, and your users, I'll now have the chance to use your app! I can't wait to dig into it!
To me, saying "Thank you" is not enough. I'm always happy to support devs like you, however I can. I'm currently downloading it to my Ipad now.

I do have one question though. I use Overdrive to read books from my library. To put it bluntly, it's not very friendly. Think of it as like the family member you only ask for help as a last resort. If you think of it like that, then, you'll have a sense of my pain. Does this app work with books from Overdrive? I'd really love to know, because, if so, then, I could maybe use it to read those books. Because now, the only choices I have, are to read it in the Kindle app, if a book is available in Kindle format. Which, is considerably more friendly than the alternative. Or, if a book isn't available in Kindle format, then ∮ only other option I've got, is to read it in the Overdrive app. Which, is not pretty or fun.

Also, do you support Bookshare, and NFBNewsline? If not, could you please consider adding support for them? As these are services that I, and I imagine other blind people use regularly as well.

Thank you for your help regarding this matter, and also for making the app free for blind people!

Submitted by Maldalain on Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Huge thanks for this. I have purcashe purchased the app already and thought it is such a great app exceeding other much more expensive ones in feature and implementation of features.
Looking for more features to be added in future, particularly Bookshare support and more file formats.

Submitted by Daniil Gusev on Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Good day. Thank you so much for taking this step, which can make the lives of many people with disabilities much easier. I have a suggestion for the next update, which will not be difficult to implement, but may help in some situations. perhaps it is worth making a separate tab in which you can paste text from the clipboard / print your own, and then so that by pressing the button it will be pronounced.

Submitted by Joe on Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Club AppleVis Member

Hi just wanted to say I purchased the Mac app several months ago and I love it. Do to PDF's sometimes sucking on Mac your app is the only way I can sometimes read documents from work etc. I've never used the iPhone app do to using something else, but I will give it a go. Thanks! On the Mac have you ever thought about allowing for purchasing of other voices similar to what Voicedream does?

Submitted by Labsii on Tuesday, August 3, 2021

In reply to by Dawn 👩🏻‍🦯

Hi Dawn,

Thank you for this wonderful post. And also thanks to everyone who has posted, I'll reply directly just to those posts that require answer in order not to make too much noise, but I do appreciate every nice word posted above. This is probably the kindest community on the internet and I am really glad to be able to support it this way.

Also thanks for mentioning that paid users of my app deserve some honor as nothing could happen without them. I had that in mind and in the next version of the app they will receive the message 'your purchase supports the ongoing development of the app and keeping it free for the blind people' so that they can be aware of their good deed.

There is no obligation to help in any way, but if someone decides to help I guess there are two things he can do - spread the word and rate the app on the App Store.

At the moment Bookshare is supported, you have probably noticed that after installing the app. I don't think it is possible to support NFBNewsline by 3rd party apps. I will consider to support Overdrive as you have suggested. I must say that Bookshare was virtually unused and at some point even removed from the app due to more than 99.9% of users not using it, but I have decided to bring it back for VoiceOver users and hopefully with this action it will gain some traction. After I receive such a data I will definitely consider to add new services.

Hi Maldalain,

I am really glad to hear your reaction. I must say that I was afraid that there can be a backlash of users that have paid, as that would be a problem both because I cannot issue refunds (it is done by App Store) and if I did for a large number of people at a short time that would be a significant financial problem for me. It is really great to see that people understand this message properly.

One thing to note is that the app supports Bookshare. There was some brief period when this was removed from the app due to virtual no usage, but for some time it is active again for VoiceOver users. Also you may provide some more information of what file formats you may appreciate to be added, that would be a very useful information.

Hi Daniil,

I believe that at the moment there are good options to support the quick paste & read. If you open the context menu of the app from the iOS home screen there is such an option. There is also a Siri shortcut for that.

Hi Joe,

thank you for your nice words.

While iOS is a leading mobile operating system, macOS is in many ways much more elaborate and powerful than it. As such on macOS you can buy a voice and it will be available to every single app in the operating system and operating system itself, which is much more powerful thing than buying the voice just for one app. That is how things work also on Android and Windows, and Apple was said to be working on a similar feature for iOS but as of now it has never appeared. You may request Apple to add such a feature with Feedback Assistant from this link: https://feedbackassistant.apple.com/ . In the header press the icon to start the new feedback, then pick ‘iOS & iPadOS’. The more users write the more likely it is for them to consider this as a priority.

Just to note that while this is possible on macOS it is also fairly expensive, you can expect the price of 20-30$ for the same voices that are in range of 2-3$ on Android or in Voice Dream Reader on iOS, but in line on how much those voices cost on Windows. If Voice Dream Reader sold those voices on macOS they would have to charge this much, that is why it is not available on the Macs with M1 as EULA of those voices don't allow that.

wouldn't it be better if everything is in one place? :)
and another question: have you ever thought about adding the ability to view OPDS catalogs to your application? that is, books can be obtained directly from the application.
all the best to you Daniel

Submitted by Labsii on Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Well I haven't gone into the technical details, but there are more reasons why your current proposal can't be implemented at least not in its original form. The app has already 5 tabs. If you add the 6th tab as it can't be displayed at once the iOS will automatically make a new tab 'More' from which you can access overflowed tabs. That would place that 'Paste' tab into the 'More' group which wouldn't add anything to the efficiency and would break the concept and usability of the app.

There is already the Paste button in the Articles & Books page on the bottom of the items. I understand that this may be not as easy to be reached for blind people as for other people, but I don't have any better solution at the moment. I may try to focus it each time the user returns to the app, but for many blind users this would be rather a distraction than the help, not all users have the same usage pattern.

OPDS is already supported. You can add it in the Headlines (unfortunately OPDS is so rarely used that it doesn't make sense for it to be called 'Headlines & OPDS' though that would be a more correct title) and there are already some book catalogue links included in the Popular sites section.

Submitted by Ekaj on Tuesday, August 3, 2021

I, too, would like to sincerely thank you for doing this. I've seen your app mentioned on here but due to my financial situation I couldn't purchase it. But now I can and most certainly will do so later this week. I think I can actually purchase some non-free apps now because I might have a better financial situation. But that's a topic for a different time and place. Anyway, I too am rather geeky and like to have all the latest and greatest tech so long as it works with screen readers. Again, thanks a million for permanently making your app free and best of luck to you in the future.

Hello! Thanks for getting back to me!

I hope you will consider if not add Overdrive. As for NFBNewsline, it is possible to support it. There's a service that supports it that is 3rd party, called Dolphin EasyReader. Although it is not very smooth or user-friendly. Frankly, I did not like Dolphin because of that reason, among others. Please don't think I'm saying anything mean, nasty, or otherwise bad. All I'm saying, is that it is possible to support NFBNewsline as a 3rd party. I do appreciate you being open to at least looking into new services. As for the services already listed, I love them! I especially love the support for social media! Especially because you either have 1 of 2 things when it comes to that. Sometimes both, but mostly, 1 or the other.
1. The social media app or site is not accessible for Vo. users.
2. Or, you have a social media app or site that seems to like breaking things or not making new things accessible for Vo. users. Or, you end up having to use a 3rd party client to access the service because that's more accessible than the app or site., site.

Also, I have a question about adding your own service. Is it possible to add a service? For example, is it possible to add the website of your local news station? I'm not just talking about that, I mean other services. If so, how would you do that? If not, then could you please consider making that an option also? Because I, as I'm sure many blind and vision impaired people have come across sites that we use either on a daily, or regular basis that are either inaccessible or very hard if not impossible to use. I think that this would take some if not all of that pain away.

Again, thank you for getting back to me, and most importantly thank you for making it free for us. I have downloaded the app, and explored it very briefly. I will say, that I love what I'm seeing so far! I love the layout, the services already there, etc. I hope to be able to explore more in-depth this week! Please keep up the great work! I look forward to seeing what you do with the app next!

Submitted by Labsii on Tuesday, August 3, 2021

In reply to by Dawn 👩🏻‍🦯

Hi Dawn,

I appreciate your comments. It is very useful to hear from users on their opinions, I learned a lot that way and even if I don't learn something it is often useful to remind on some pending tasks. So always feel completely free to send any suggestion.

You can add any website to the Headlines tab. There are multiple ways to do it, I am not sure which one is the most accessible as in general you either need to know the website address or to use the browser to find the website. The option that you are most likely to use is to press the 'Add' button and pick 'Website'. Then you use Google to find the website and when you open it you click on the 'Add' button on this page. Hopefully it helps.

Submitted by Earth on Tuesday, August 3, 2021

thank you but I never use this app before. if I want to connect with you and ask you some question what do I do? or how can I contact you?

Submitted by Maldalain on Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Bookmarking is an issue for me with the app. When I want to bookmark certain section of a book to return to in future, the whole paragraph is bookmarked not a single word or a block of words. Also when I want to navigate to a bookmarked section I select it from the bookmarks menu and VoiceOver does not navigate to the bookmarked location, rather I get speech. I hope you revise re-design the bookmarks and comments section as it is really useful when you read something and bookmarking and commenting is crucial.

Submitted by tripolice on Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Hi,
1. App store lists the free and paid version of the app in my location. What isthe difference between the two versions?
2. Is the paid version made freely available to blind users? If I'm understanding this correctly, how would this work? Cause the only way to procure the app is by paying, as usual in the app store.
3. As I can see, there are separate tabs for headlines and articles. Shouldn't I be able to listen to the articles of the headlines themselves if I want to? Am I missing on something here?
4. How do I switch to a different voice which is already added from Accessibility speech settings? There's an edit box which says Random, High Quality.

Thank you

Submitted by Dawn 👩🏻‍🦯 on Wednesday, August 4, 2021

In reply to by tripolice

Hey, Tripolice.

I can answer one of your questions. Maybe 2, but, I know I can answer one with 100% assurance.

Tap on where it says random prefer high-quality, and then swipe right. There, you'll come to a picker item. After that, flick up or down. and you'll be able to choose your voice of choice.
If not found right away, explore by touch and you'll find it.
This, is the question that I can 100% answer.

Now, the next question I can answer, if I'm off the mark in any way, please Lab CI. or anyone else, please correct me. But, here's what my understanding is. The paid version is for schools. So, naturally it would have some features that are mainly catered to educational institutions, along with the other mainstream features. As I said though, I could be totally off-base here. If I am, then someone please correct me.

I'm sorry I couldn't be more help. But, I hope I was able to be of at least some help to you.

Submitted by Dawn 👩🏻‍🦯 on Wednesday, August 4, 2021

In reply to by Labsii

Thank you! This does help.

I appreciate that! I always feel weird mentioning another app when talking to another dev about their app. Even if it's in the context that I was doing it. I love seeing devs like you who are open to feedback. I definetely agree that you can take away at least one if not many more things from it.

'I think I'll try both ways of adding sites/services. I will keep playing around with the app, and, if I have any more questions, I'll either come back here, or, drop you an email. :-)

Submitted by Labsii on Wednesday, August 4, 2021

In reply to by Earth

You can use whatever you find convenient to contact me. In the app there is the 'Contact support' button in the 'Extras' tab, that is what most people use.

Hi Maldalain,

If the navigating the bookmark doesn't work as expected then it is a VoiceOver bug as it works well on the screen and otherwise I think that VoiceOver syncs well the visible position on the screen. However it could be that because this is happening below another form the VoiceOver doesn't do that sync properly though technically it should. I'll try to change the sequence of events during this command or some other creative solution to eventually work around this bug. If it fails then I can only think of submitting the bug to Apple but in that case that will probably take months to be fixed.

Submitted by Labsii on Wednesday, August 4, 2021

In reply to by tripolice

Hi tripolice,

Dawn has correctly answered some of your questions above. Regarding the paid app it is also described on the App Store page what are the differences in more details. In short is a derivative of the original app tailored for kids and schools - mostly for regulatory and procedural reasons as in many ways this app couldn't be certified for use in schools or for the Kids section in the app page (it is even ranked as 18+ by Apple's rules for the simple fact that includes the browser to search for the websites). For any paid app there is no way that you can get it for free - the transaction is completely handled by Apple and they don't have an option to give something free to blind people in that transaction.

Also he has described on how to use the Settings page probably better than what I would do as I am not an experienced VoiceOver user so I wouldn't be able to give exact advice on how to perform some specific actions in the VoiceOver. Most of the time when someone asks regarding that I do contact some VoiceOver user for the help, so I appreciate that he has noticed the problem and helped.

Regarding the Headlines and Articles, Headlines are dynamic sources of the news headlines. Articles are a static content of articles. There are lot of differences among them:
1. Headlines can't be only temporarily read as there are always new headlines coming, Articles can be read and they have their workflow (to be moved in 'Old Articles' after that
2. Headlines can't be annotated
3. You can add new articles from Headlines and the opposite is not possible
4. Their technical base is different - while both of them may use web pages, Headlines can also (and most frequently do) use RSS feeds, while Articles can import files or scan text from the camera

Submitted by AnonyMouse on Friday, August 6, 2021

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Hi Labsii,

Wonderful news about making the Voice Reader Speech Central free of cost. I do have one question for you.

It mentions in the description the following:
- The free version has a daily limitation in the number of articles that you can add to it which is removed by purchasing the Pro add-on.

What exactly are the daily limitations?

Thanks
AnonyMouse

Submitted by Maldalain on Saturday, August 7, 2021

When I try navigating a PDF text by line using VoiceOver rotor option, VoiceOver reads the whole paragraph not a line, and further it does not navigate to the next.
Today I found that I can edit PDFs with Speech Central, such wonderful feature! Thanks for all the hard work put into this application. Please add option for donating for the developing of this app.

Submitted by Dawn 👩🏻‍🦯 on Saturday, August 7, 2021

In reply to by AnonyMouse

Hi, AnonyMouse!

I hadn't really thought about that before to be honest. While I'm not the dev, I assume that it's unlimited. But, then again, I could be wrong.
So, like I said before, good question. It's honestly something I hadn't thought about before.

I have a question for you, and anyone else in the community. Have you, or anyone else in the AppleVis community considered doing a podcast demoing this app? I, and I imagine others on here would love to listen to a podcast on this one.

Submitted by Labsii on Saturday, August 7, 2021

In reply to by AnonyMouse

Hello AnonyMouse,

the app is free for the blind people without any limitation. For other people it is free with the limitation that you can add two new articles each day and one longer item (like a book) in a month. There is only a single App Store page available to everyone so it mentions this.

Submitted by Labsii on Saturday, August 7, 2021

First to thank Maldalain for suggesting the donation and Dawn for suggesting the podcast.

I am much more after encouraging people to try to promote than to donate, and I'll try to explain why.

This is how the things have started. I have noted that I earn something like 100$ a month from the blind people. That is 6 years since the project started. While it could grow further in the future the fact is that it was likely to be still in the range of few hundred dollars a month. I have realized that I can give up of this money and potentially help millions of people in the world that would appreciate this help (please note that the app is also available for free to blind people on Android and Windows too). At least for me it was an easy choice - not that I wouldn't have any use of this money but it is really nothing comparing to the good impact that this can have on the world.

But there is no magic that will make those millions of people to actually get this message. If I end up just here I would just get those dozen of blind people a month that would pay for the app to use it for free. Not to say that it is bad but far from the potential of how much this idea could benefit the world. In line with that I also perceive hundreds if not even thousands of hours in the time I need to spend to inform people regarding this. I have already spent dozens. Probably I have already spent the time that would be needed to do some rough implementation of Overdrive service requested above. And this is just to reach something like initial thousand of blind users.

That's why I prefer some form of word spreading over the donation. Money won't help me in changing the world and this is really about changing the world. Currently I have mostly success when I have direct contact with blind people as they react in most cases very positive to this like they did here or in the Reddit blind community. I also try to write emails or other form of messages to various authorities and organizations in this field, but at least as of now they mostly end up being ignored. Regarding that I must say that AppleVis is one of the rare truly open organizations that always wanted to spread the information that blind people could benefit of. There are few more exemptions, but as said at least as of now others were never interested and it doesn't appear that it will be easy to change that. That's why a true and honest initiative supported by the blind people is really really welcome.

Hello Maldalain,

I believe that the VoiceOver should be regarded as a substitute for the visual navigation of controls. As such what you explain is exactly how non-blind people would navigate the app - if they want to manually move the focus they need to scroll.

I would add few tips for navigating the content in an accessible way:
- long press next and previous buttons to see all possible and very elaborate ways of navigating the content
- those options can be activated with the iPad's keyboard which when available is should be really convenient
- those options can assigned to audio buttons in the settings - you can customize on what Previous/Next/Skip forward/Skip back/Quick volume up-down/Quick volume down-up do
- audio buttons are available on most headphones (e.g. Apple's stock EarPods that came with all iPhones except for the iPhone 12 and also AirPods Pro) and as physical objects they should be quite accessible. Most people are not aware how to activate those buttons as they usually mean using some sort of gestures (e.g. if you want to activate the 'Next' command using the stock Apple EarPods you should double click the button on the headphones that is used to accept the calls).
- assigning command to quick volume down-up and volume up-down works with the iPhone/iPad volume buttons so that's an interesting accessible option available to everyone
- customization also affects the buttons on the screen. The iPhone it may show more buttons in the landscape mode which may be more useful.
- finally customization of buttons goes a bit beyond just navigation so you can also add some commands like bookmarking or adding the article linked to the currently read title from Headlines to Articles & Books

Hello!

First, let me say one thing. When it comes to stuff like this, word gets around the blind community. What I'm about to say may get some flack, but, in my experience it's proven true. The blind community is relatively small. So, when it comes to stuff like this, word gets around. I say this, because, I've had 2 instances of seeing someone from one organization in a meeting with another organization. I had that happen recently, with a meeting on the NFBNewsline service. Someone that I often see in meetings of discussion groups at Hadley was also at the meeting. As it turned out.
As for spreading the word around, I'm more than happy to spread the word about things like this. In fact, I have already clued in Braille Institute, which, is an organization where I've had the opportunity to attend several workshops, including a weekly tech workshop. I emailed this very post to the instructors that run this particular workshop. I'm planning on emailing this over to Hadley as well, as there will be a meeting for a discussion group where I think that this would be a great resource. So, you can bet I'll be spreading the word around about this. Which, as I've said before, I'm beyond happy to do!

I also wanted to comment on something you've said earlier. In a previous comment, you mentioned how you were not a user of VoiceOver yourself. So, when a VO. user emails you a problem related to that, you usually reach out to a VO. user for help. If you'd like, feel free to add me to your list of VO. users to reach out to. I'm more than willing and happy to help you out in this way! I would be able to help you out with VO. on the IOS and Ipad-OS. side of things. If you'd like to use me as a source so to speak, please post a comment on here, and I will send you an email from the app on how to reach me. I am not a developer, but, I can tell you how VO. behaves, or sometimes misbehaves for example.

Submitted by Little Star on Sunday, August 8, 2021

I will spread this good message to my visually impaired friends.
As i am looking for an app that support encryption, hope this app can support encrypting the stored document, thanks.

Submitted by Labsii on Sunday, August 8, 2021

In reply to by Little Star

Hello Little Star,

thank you for your nice words. I am not sure I fully understood what kind of encryption you expect. The iOS encrypts all files by default, so no one can access them without your password even if he has a special equipment and gets a direct access to the data storage chips on the iPhone/iPad. Technically one can only spy on them if he gets a root privilege on the device which shouldn't be possible, but there are still companies that find some workarounds and sell tools to governments to achieve such access. But that sort of surveillance is mostly limited to governments and usually requires someone to have some interaction with you and trick you into doing something, just a simple physical access to the locked device is frequently not enough.

One thing to note is that iCloud backups are not encrypted so if you need a very high level of security you should disable that and eventually use the Mac for the backup (I think that PC can be used too).

Submitted by Labsii on Sunday, August 8, 2021

In reply to by Dawn 👩🏻‍🦯

Hi Dawn,

that was exactly in line of what I was thinking though I haven't described it in details. People will take a much deeper insight if they receive the message from the people they know than if they receive a "cold" email from me which may be ignored or may even not reach the proper person in the organization.

It is a sort of uphill battle as the app doesn't have a high credibility in the blind community at the moment. It does have a reasonable well credibility in the general population as you can note that it has fairly lot of good ratings on the App Store. But before this action there was just one user that used it to get the book on the Bookshare in the last 90 days. Since then there are 17 users which still isn't some big number but things are going in the right direction. It will be much easier to get some more words when it gets to at least 100 or even better 1000 users, but it will take time for that.

I appreciate all your help. I'll send you a message here regarding the VoiceOver help - at least as of now there are not too many people that ask this kind of help but it is good to have more people that can help me with this as it can always happen that someone might not be available.

Also to introduce my self by the name. I am Ivan and the user name labsii is the name of my company though I am the only one working there.

Submitted by Labsii on Wednesday, August 11, 2021

In reply to by Dawn 👩🏻‍🦯

Hi,

there will be a new version this week. I'll try to address the bookmark scroll problem with VoiceOver that Maldalain has mentioned.

Also I've got an idea on how to make the adding of any website to the Headlines accessible (Dawn was asking about this). Currently you would have to use the browser. While this is not expected to be done frequently it is still not made in an accessible way. In the new version when the app is used with VoiceOver there will be a simple and accessible prompt with a text box where you should enter the name of the website. The app will use the search engine to find it and add it to the Headlines. This should work properly in nearly all cases and for those that don't there is still the option to find the site in Safari, click on the 'Share' and then pick 'Add to Headlines'.

Also there will be some new features. Possibly someone might be interested in much better support for use of multiple languages as the app will remember last picked voices for all languages. Also as the app will be able to display the current page in the pdf document ('Open Original') you might want to check the number of the current page that way, or to browse by the page.

Submitted by gregg on Thursday, August 12, 2021

I purchased both apps a few years ago. I've been happy with both of them. I bought the school version because I was just curious. But now I am glad I have both apps paid versions. The reason I didn't download more than one bookshare book in the last month is that Bookshare didn't have anything I wanted to read.