Text-To-Speech Services: Choosing ROKTalk over BrowseAloud

This post briefly describes ROKTalk and BrowseAloud, and discusses why ROKTalk was chosen over BrowseAloud for an upcoming Web Site for people with cognitive disabilities.

That Web site will be a report for The Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services.  It will be published by The Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center, for which I work.  The project staff and I received good Webinar-based demonstrations from company representatives.  We saw BrowseAloud and ROKTalk in action on production Web sites.  We also paid careful attention to their usage instructions provided for the benefit of site visitors.


BrowseAloud and ROKTalk read Web pages aloud.  Web sites incorporate these text-to-speech (TTS) services for use by site visitors who find reading difficult.  Common reasons for this include intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, mild visual impairment, and/or illiteracy.

Both services offer other features, such as increasing text-size, highlighting text as it is read, translation of text to other languages, and changing the background color.  These features can be activated from a floating toolbar, the appearance of which can be invoked by the site visitor.

An image of the BrowseAloud toolbar is displayed below.Browse Aloud toolbar has 7 multi-colored buttons in a horizontal strip.The ROKTalk Toolbar is pictured below.  The image is significantly smaller than the toolbar’s actual size.

ROK Talk toolbar has feature sections with icon-based buttons in each.


BrowseAloud requires Web site visitors to download and to install software.  For people who do so, an advantage is that BrowseAloud can be used for other purposes, such as word processing.  For Web developers, perhaps especially for inexperienced ones, an advantage is that no related scripting has to be incorporated into the Web site.

Neither of these advantages outweighed what the Shriver project staff and I believe to be the primary disadvantage.  Downloading and installing software would be too difficult for anticipated site visitors, some of whom are likely to have intellectual disabilities.  Likewise, we judged Browse Aloud’s usage instructions to be too complex.

For people who visit a Web site with ROKTalk, the TTS and other text-accessibility features can be used immediately.  No download and installation are required.  That said, it may be the toolbar itself is too complicated.  We may try a customized, less fully-featured version that presumably would be easier to use.