Wikispeech project to offer crowdsourced text in spoken format for blind and low vision users

Recognizing the importance of providing equal opportunities to access information for persons with disabilities, Wikipedia and Swedish KTH Royal Institute of Technology are creating a crowdsourced speech engine to address the needs of blind and low vision users. Based on Wikimedia Sweden’s information, this initiative will be useful for 25% of Wikipedia users that have affirmed to require or prefer text in a spoken format.

Although the platform is mostly focused on broadening access to Wikipedia, it will also be available as open source for accessing other wikis and sites that use MediaWiki software. Besides, all of the available material will be freely licensed under the rules of Wikimedia Commons.

The Wikispeech pilot project will be funded by the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority, and will also involve other organizations such as Wikimedia Sweden and STTS speech technology services. It will initially be generated in Swedish language, but will later on be translated to English, Arabic, and it is expected to cover other 280 languages by the end of 2017.

The creation of the speech engine will complement the impact of a currently operating WikiProject Accessibility, which is a set of instructions to promote that writers and developers build up on the site taking into consideration the W3C’s official WCAG 2.0 and ATAG 2.0 accessibility guidelines. Some of the main recommendations include using “lang” commands to indicate when a quote is not in English, providing explicit titles for images and structuring data tables in understandable ways.

Wiki: A wiki is a website which allows collaborative modification of its content and structure directly from the web browser. In a typical wiki, text is written using a simplified markup language (known as “wiki markup”), and often edited with the help of a rich-text editor.

Addiional Sources: GAATES , WikiProject AccessibilityKTH