EY UP: Richie Cottingham seeks new voice
A proud Yorkshireman with cerebral palsy whose computer-generated voice sounds American is appealing for volunteers to help him create his native accent.
Richie Cottingham, 26, said he dislikes his current voice and wants to sound like his family and friends who are all from Hull, East Yorks.
The self professed ‘proud Yorkshireman’ has lived in East Yorkshire for his entire life and said his speaking aid’s generic voice does not represent who he is.
Speech and language therapist Jennifer Benson has been helping Richie and they are hoping to find two men who are around his age to create a new voice in his preferred accent.
Richie, who has had cerebral palsy since his birth, said the East Yorkshire accent would be ‘awesome’.
Richie, from Hull, East Yorks., said: “I want to sound like my family and friends.
“When I am in a room with lots of other people we all sound the same because all of the devices use the same voices.
“I lived in East Yorkshire all of my life so I think an East Yorkshire accent would fit well to me.
“I would love to have my own voice.”
Jennifer Benson, who is an independent language therapist, has been working closely with Richie for the past nine months.
She said she feels ‘immensely proud and privileged’ to be able to help Richie regain his voice.
The 46-year-old said: “I think it’s so important for someone to have their own voice. Most of us don’t realise it but our voices are unique to us as individuals.
“How often do we answer the phone and people know it’s you - it’s unique like your fingerprints.
“It’s key to your identity and your sense of self.
“We know it from our patients who lose their voices that it’s so important.
“It’s turned into a really brilliant project between the two of us and he’s so excited.”
The voice will be created by SpeakUnique, who also helped Leeds Rhino legend Rob Burrow create his voice for his communication aid.
They have narrowed it down to three people whose East Yorkshire accents are to Richie’s preference.
The ‘clever’ process involves getting two people to say roughly 200 phrases before their voices are merged together so it creates a completely unique voice.
Jennifer added: “I feel like this is a huge deal, as a speech therapist we want to enhance people’s communication as best we can do.
“We have the opportunity to literally give him a voice.
“He'll sound like the people he grew up with, but he will also sound completely unique.
“They take those two voices and blend them together to make a new voice so it’s a voice that belongs to him and him alone.”
Richie is hoping to show off his brand new voice in a couple of weeks' time.
By Joe Pagnelli | SWNS
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