For a couple of years, I worked in Sydney for a Hong Kong-based business. All my clients were based overseas and I spent most of my day bellowing into my phone. I’m quite the chatterbox and, on an average day, would utter thousands of words (many of them polite).

One day, I woke up without my voice. Although a ‘minor inconvenience’, I assumed I’d be okay with email, instant messaging, texting and all the other wonderful communication tools at my fingertips.

I was wrong. After hours of trying unsuccessfully to persuade, cajole, debate, explain and negotiate without speaking, I went home, deflated and exhausted. Without a voice, I felt as if no-one was listening to me.

My voice – unique as a fingerprint – is a crucial part of who I am. Without it, I struggled to connect with others. More significantly, I didn’t feel like me and lost all confidence in what I was saying. That’s one reason voice disorders – even mild and temporary problems like laryngitis – can be so devastating to your sense of identity.

Now imagine what it’s like for people who have never had a unique voice. People who might have “a voice”, thanks to great apps like Proloquo2go and Sonoflex, but who share it with thousands of other people with disabilities. Imagine a 6 year old girl and a 45 year old man conversing while using the same computer-generated voice.

It’s that scenario that led speech communication and computer science professor Rupal Patel to found VocaliD, an organisation that “extracts acoustic properties from a target talker’s disordered speech (whatever sounds they can still produce) and applies these features to a synthetic voice…created from a surrogate voice donor who is similar in age, size, gender, etc. The result is a synthetic voice that contains as much of the vocal identity of the target talker as possible yet the speech clarity of the surrogate talker..”

It’s a simple – and brilliant – idea which Professor Patel explains here:

Professor Patel’s research changes people’s lives. And we can all contribute. Are you willing to donate 2-3 hours of speech to give someone access to their own voice?

Banter Speech & Language Banter Speech & Language
Banter Speech & Language is an independent firm of speech pathologists for adults and children. We help clients in our local area, including Concord, Rhodes, Strathfield and all other suburbs of Sydney’s Inner West.

Banter Speech & Language is owned and managed by David Kinnane, a Hanen- and LSVT LOUD-certified speech-language pathologist with post-graduate training in the Spalding Method for literacy, the Lidcombe and Camperdown Programs for stuttering, and Voicecraft for voice disorders. David is also a Certified PESL Instructor for accent modification.

David holds a Master of Speech Language Pathology from the University of Sydney, where he was a Dean’s Scholar. David is a Practising Member of Speech Pathology Australia and a Certified Practising Speech Pathologist (CPSP).

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