Having Text Read to You — for free

And see, no longer blinded by our eyes.
Rupert Brooke

Looking for an app that reads text to my father, someone from the incobs.de website (informs about technologies for blind and low vision people and have an English language version) gave me the tip to look at the Accessibility features of iOS8. While that OS is somewhat buggy, there’s also something that Apple did right, very right (not sure whether it was already available in iOS7). You can get the iPad (or iPhone, or — probably also — iPod touch) to read text for you, e.g., on websites.

Just go to “Settings


General” and “Accessibility


then “Speech


where you can activate “Speak Screen” and


When you now swipe two fingers down from the top of the screen, the text is read to you (at least in Safari, does not seem to work with all Apps). Great if you are visually impaired. You might want to slow down the “Speaking Rate” a bit.

Make sure you select the right language under “Voices” …


Given that the pronunciation if vastly different between the languages, select the one the text you read usually is in:


and download the “Enhanced Quality


When you use the feature on a website, you get these controls and the words are highlighted when they are read (if “Highlight Content” is activated).


And sure, it’s not an audio book, it’s not a human voice, but if you are visually impaired it might just help you to get some information you otherwise could not have gotten.

So, kudos Apple, and very well done.


  1. Glad you’re giving your father help in this area. Other suggestions:

    1. If he likes to read web pages, but finds browser readers get confused and speak a lot of irrelevant material, look into the latest version of Instapaper for iOS. It allows you to save webpages to read later. It strips out all the irrelevant material and, in its very latest version, it will read that text aloud to you. The only hitch is that it reads a bit fast, so your father might want to set it to 0.5X speed. Also, if your father has trouble even reading webpage headlines, someone else could find articles he’d like and save them to Instapaper for later reading out loud.

    2. Amazon owns Audible and makes money selling audiobooks. That’s almost certainly why after the Kindle 3, its epaper readers will no longer do text-to-speech. If your dad needs books he can only get from Amazon, you might want to look for a second-hand Kindle 3. That’s why I’m hanging on to mine.

    3. If your father likes to listen to classic books, meaning those now in the public domain, you might want to check out:


    They take audiobooks that Librivox volunteers have created and repackage them to make them easy to play on smartphones and tablets. Almost all the volunteers are quite good and, as you will see, there’s a large selection of books.

    –Michael W. Perry, Inkling Books

2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

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