Native voice, self-concept and the moral case for personalized voice technology (summary)


AAC devices currently in common use have a limited number of different voices available and these are not natural sounding of easily able to express emotions; this can be a reason for some people who might benefit choosing not to use them.

This paper considers the importance of voice and the impact of its loss on people with acquired communication difficulties such as Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), stroke etc.

Voice disorders have been found to effect quality of life, but there is little research into how the loss of a natural or native voice effects self-concept and identity.

Individual voice patterns provide a lot of information about the speaker, both to listeners and speakers themselves.

Loss of motor control of native voice restricts a person’s ability to convey the full complexity of ‘self’ through social interactions and can reduce the sense of personal identity.

Self-concept and identity are difficult to measure. A small number of qualitative studies have been carried out and have found that people who have voice disorders generally have negative views and perceptions of themselves. They find it difficult both to get basic messages across and to express feelings and emotions, particularly if they have associated physical difficulties.

Social integration can be an issue for people with voice disorders who might be perceived more negatively then those who do not have a speech impairment.

Speech generating devices (SGDs) are not used by all people who might benefit from them. The quality of speech output is one probable reason for this.

It is becoming possible for synthesised voices to be personalised through the use of new technology. This might require ‘banking’ of a person’s voice while their speech remains intelligible. This is effortful and time-consuming. Various other systems are, or are becoming available but none are yet totally satisfactory, however positive progress is being made in the development of personalised voice identities.

The author makes a moral case for providing personalised voice technology, including respect for autonomy, social justice and equality of opportunity.

This has implications for the development of AAC technology and the author suggests that, whilst technology companies would need to see a profit from producing applications for communication, there is a strong moral case for government support and resource provision to ensure personalised voice technology is available to all who need it. It is suggested that cost-effectiveness analyses will be needed and that cases might need to be made to increase the priority given to voice technology, this would include improved quality of life and the ethical/social value of supporting individual self-concept.

Things you may want to look into:

AAC for adults with acquired neurological conditions: a review

Voice Banking and Voice Reconstruction for MND patients

Using different methods to communicate: how adults with severe acquired communication difficulties make decisions about the communication methods they use and how they experience them

Added to site June 17