Leo’s Christmas dream comes true

Student Leo with his voice donor Dan

One National Star student has received the best Christmas gift ever – his own voice. Leo, a third year student at National Star, uses an electronic device to communicate.

The 20-year-old who is from High Wycombe says the voice on his communication device does not represent his personality.

‘My old voice sounded like a self-service man at a checkout. It was boring and dull,’ says Leo. ‘I wanted a young voice. I am a young man from High Wycombe.’

National Star launched the Find My Voice project in response to students wanting more appropriate electronic voices. There are very few age-appropriate regional voices available.

Many families cannot afford to pay for a customised voice. National Star established a Technology Fund, which helps students find suitable voice donors and record the new voice.

When Dan Lazenby, who lives High Wycombe, heard about the appeal for voice donors he jumped at the chance.

Six donors provided voice samples and Leo chose Dan who spent about 16 hours recording more than 1,200 phrases which are used to create the synthesised voice.

Leo says his new voice is amazing and the best Christmas gift he could ask for.

‘My new voice makes me feel happy because it shows my kind and caring personality. I sound like my family now,’ he says. ‘Now that I have my new voice I am using my AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) device more.’

Dan and Leo got the opportunity to meet each other and Dan admits it is a bit weird hearing Leo with his voice.

‘I’m thrilled that he likes his new voice and although it was strange to hear at first, it still amazed me at how clear and exact it was to mine,’ said Dan. ‘I thought my voice suited him perfectly!

‘It was a great experience and it clearly means a lot to Leo which only fills me with joy. I would recommend anyone who has the chance to do what I did to go for it because we live with our own voice every day and donating it to someone who has the chance to use a voice that best suits them and their personality will mean the absolute world and encourage them to use it more often in confidence.’

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