Skopje, April 27, 2021 – The first text-to-speech app for Macedonian and Albanian languages, designed as a tool for the visually impaired, is being developed through a partnership between the UNDP, the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy and the National Association of People with Visual Impairment. The new free-to-use app is being developed for desktop and mobile devices to help blind persons and persons with visual impairment to process written information successfully and to navigate digital spaces more easily.
“It’s an honor and a pleasure for me to be able to share with you today that for the first time, blind persons and persons with visual impairment in the Republic of North Macedonia will have the opportunity to use an adequate modern tool which will empower them to be more independent in all aspects of daily life. The text-to-speech application will be developed in accordance with the latest technological trends. It will be user friendly and allow text to be read out loud in a clear, natural voice. The app will be available for use in all aspects of daily life and will significantly improve the quality of life for blind persons and persons with visual impairment. It will facilitate smooth communication, mobility and social inclusion,” emphasized Jagoda Shahpaska, Minister of Labour and Social Policy.
The text-to-speech software will be especially significant as a tool for acquiring knowledge and information, and for facilitating smooth communication. The app will be made available to students, job seekers, interns, employees and all who face difficulties in processing textual information.
“The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities affirms that all persons with all types of disabilities must enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms. In the current COVID-19 crisis, the UN’s maxim to “leave no one behind” is even more relevant, especially when talking about inclusive and integrated societies. The new app will expand digital accessibility for visually impaired persons, thus creating better conditions for independent living, free access to information, freedom of speech and expression and communication, non-discrimination, full and effective participation and involvement in society,“ added Narine Sahakyan, UNDP’s Resident Representative in North Macedonia.
According to the President of the National Association of People with Visual Impairment, the development of this text-to-speech solution is a step forward towards improving the quality of life for this group of citizens.
“It brings me great pleasure that blind persons will finally get a suitable and easily understandable text-to-speech solution that they can use in their native language and which expresses the text in a natural voice. This digital application will increase opportunities for each blind person in terms of mobility, household chores, studying, socializing, as well as finding employment and earning their own income, and that is invaluable for all of us,“ said Zarko Selkovski, the President of the National Association of People with Visual Impairment,
The text-to-speech application will be suitable for use by persons with learning disabilities, persons with dyslexia and all other persons which prefer to process information in an audio format. The development of the app is expected to finish in July 2021. The flexibility of the product leaves opportunity for additional regional use by blind persons who communicate in Macedonian and Albanian. The application will be developed by the US-based company Non-Routine LLC, which has experience in developing complex audio solutions and applicable computer technologies in several languages. They will be supported by a local team of linguists and philologists.
The speech synthesis app will be available on Google Play for all Android users and it will be integrated with the existing Talkback platform which is pre-installed on all Android devices.