Today, the synthetic voice Martha was launched at an event in the community hall in Nuuk, Greenland. Using Martha, Greenlanders with visual impairments, dyslexia or poor reading skills can have Greenlandic text read out aloud. The voice is expected to significantly impact how special education is practiced throughout the Greenlandic educational system. Furthermore, the voice will help improve conditions for the visually impaired, dyslexic and people with poor reading skills in general. The development of Martha is part of a three-year project (2013 – 2015) that also involves development of special education competencies amongst teachers and educators, as well as localisation of several Danish inclusion technologies. The project is implemented by Synscenter Refsnæs with financial support from the VELUX Foundations, and is a gift to the people of Greenland.
Until now, the lack of a synthetic Greenlandic voice has prevented the use of assistive technologies amongst the visually and reading impaired in Greenland. With Martha, it is possible to automatically convert textual material into audio books. In addition, a number of speech-enabled assistive technologies become available in Greenlandic with no further ado. These include mainstream applications such as Microsoft Word and Apple’s Safari browser as well as assistive technologies such as screen readers for the blind, screen magnifiers for people with low vision and text readers for the dyslexic.
Martha can be downloaded at no cost from the homepage www.atuffat.gl. A synthetic Danish voice is also available for free for residents in Greenland. The synthetic Greenlandic voice is the result of several years of development. Martha was developed by MV-Nordic A/S for Synscenter Refsnæs in collaboration with Danish and Greenlandic linguists. An evaluation of the voice in Greenland in December of 2014 documented the high quality of Martha both in terms of naturalness and intelligibility. Once the project has concluded, the responsibilities for maintaining Martha will pass to the Greenlandic Language Secretariat, Oqaasileriffik.
In addition to the development of Martha, Synscenter Refsnæs has localised its award-winning document conversion service RoboBraille to Greenlandic. RoboBraille is an automated service that converts documents into alternate formats such as Braille, audio books and e-books. The service can also be used to convert otherwise inaccessible or tricky documents into formats that are easier to use for the visually and reading impaired. RoboBraille is a free service and is available at www.robobraille.org.
Synscenter Refsnæs is the national competence centre for blind and partially sighted children and youth in Denmark. Synscenter Refsnæs has a long tradition for assisting the Government of Greenlandic on vision impairment.