Chromebook’s new accessibility feature aims to help people with dyslexia

Your Chromebook would like to read something to you.

Sarah Tew / CNET

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Google said Thursday it was adding more “human-sounding” voices to its Select to talk function on Chromebooks. Select to Speak lets Chromebook users hear selected text on their screen aloud. The new voices aim to make this spoken text smoother and easier to understand. They are currently available in various accents in 25 languages, with more in the works, according to Google.

Reading on a screen can be difficult for people with dyslexia, people learning a new language, or people who have trouble concentrating on busy text, the search giant noted. To develop this feature, Google worked with people with dyslexia, as well as educators specializing in dyslexia.

“They shared that hearing a text read aloud improves comprehension, especially in an educational setting,” the company said in a blog post. “By bringing natural voices to the feature, like a local accent you’re used to, for example, it’s also easier to follow what’s being read and highlighted on the screen.”

To try out the new voices, turn on Select to speak in the Chromebook settings and choose the voice you want. Then select the text you want to hear read aloud and press the All button or the launch key plus S.

This update follows the addition of other Select-to-speak features earlier this year, including controls to speed up, slow down, or pause voice reading, and to easily access different sections of text. Users can also choose to highlight spoken words and shaded background text to increase focus.

Over the past year, Google has also updated the Chromebook screen magnifier, with features like keyboard panning and shortcuts. The company also launched a free online training program with the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation & Education Professionals, covering the accessibility features of Chromebook and Google Workspace.

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