Sofia, July 02, (BTA/GNA) – A Bulgarian-language speech synthesizer has been developed for use of people with visual impairments, Chairman of the Union of Blind People in Bulgaria Vassil Dolapchiev said on Friday, speaking at a BTA-hosted news conference where the ready software was presented. Dolapchiev described this as “a memorable event for the visually-impaired Bulgarians” as in his words the device will open new vistas in the social integration and realization of such people.
The software product was developed by the Institute of Information and Communication Technologies with the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in a project financed by the Social Protection Fund with the Labour and Social Policy Ministry. The project totalled 384,000 leva, close to 20,000 leva of which were provided by the Union of Blind People, Dolapchiev said.
Prof. Stoyan Mihov, one of the software’s developers, said the programme was created by a team of 14 researchers for 13 months. The team created a unique model of a neural network which can automatically put the word stress to ensure naturally sounding synthesized speech in Bulgarian. Mihov said the team did not use other people’s developments which makes the software one of a kind. Before it was finalized, the programme was tested among people with visual impairments of different age, both men and women, so as to meet their needs to the fullest possible extent, Mihov said. The speech synthesizer is to be presented at various international conferences.
Dolapchiev said that the Union of the Blind will make arrangements to provide the software at no charge to more than 4,000 Bulgarians, children including, with more than 50% visual impairment.
Deputy Labour and Social Policy Minister Lazar Lazarov, who attended the news conference, said that one of the first projects to be implemented under the National Recovery and Resilience Plans is for support and provision of hi-tech devices to people with disabilities. The project is worth 24 million leva and is expected to benefit more than 3,300 disabled people in Bulgaria, he said.