Cliff Weitzman used technology to provide a solution for people who have dyslexia and reading difficulties. His software program called Speechify transfers text to speech, making reading more accessible for users who are dyslexic, have sight challenges, or have English as a second language.
Amazing right? It all started the day he found out he was diagnosed as dyslexic.
Cliff shared that reading a sentence took him the same amount of energy and brainpower as most people take when solving a four-digit long division math equation in their head.
When he was diagnosed in 3rd grade; he shares that this was the best day of his life.
Before that, he would pretend to read and sit with the book open in front of me and pass my finger under the words. He did this so that his parents, teachers, friends and siblings would not think he was dumb, or lazy.
Every time he would be asked to read, he would time it so that he could excuse himself and hide in the bathroom.
His parents could not understand it and would ask “Cliff, why are you so lazy? Don’t you want to learn how to read?” His father was often frustrated after buying every program. He would scold him to stop fidgeting and pay attention. Meanwhile, Cliff, on the other hand, would be even more frustrated, because he was doing the best he could.
Cliff says that luckily his Dad never gave up on him. Ever. His dad would make it a point to try and get home early to sit on his bed and read Harry Potter to me. One of the books he wanted to read so much, but couldn’t because he was struggling.
His mother came across the term Dyslexia in a book. She decided to get him tested and it turned out that he had both ADD and Dyslexia. He recalls being so happy to have an answer and to know that he was not dumb nor Lazy. His attitude was one of gratitude because he was sure that now that they knew the problem they could fix it.
Dyslexia is a learning disorder characterised by difficulty reading. Symptoms include late talking, learning new words slowly and a delay in learning to read. [Read: Understanding your Child’s Milestones]
This started his journey of consuming books by listening to them. Cliff started listening to 2 audiobooks every week and 100 books a year.
He continued pushing and asking questions. He got admitted to Brown University which was great. However, he found himself stuck. He could not read his summer book before school resumed; because there was no audiobook version of it.
According to a report, 73 Million Americans listen to at least one podcast every month, 48 Million listen once a week, and 19% increase the speed when listening. So Cliff wondered why he could not listen to his readings.
When he started college, he could not keep up with the amount of reading he needed to do. It simply was not possible to read everything assigned in class and still sleep, eat, and spend time with friends.
The issue was that none of the readings he was assigned including Ebooks, PDFs, websites, textbooks had an audio version. He started trying out every single piece of software that could read out text to him. However, all the existing options were clunky, slow, and expensive. In the process, he taught himself how to code.
Over his four years in University he perfected the system, and little by little he started to build his own software. As the saying goes, the rest is history, today many people are able to function in school and society because of Speechify.
There are several advantages of Speechify; these include increased comprehension by using both your sense of sight and your sense of hearing at the same time to take in information. Secondly, following along with the fast-paced reading and text highlighting it is harder to get distracted.
Watch more from Cliff here
This story is amazing because, on many levels, it shows at once the fact that a challenge can be harnessed to be a blessing. Also, his parents did not give up on him and supported and helped him to be his best.
Download the Speechify App here