Hey Tek-ninjas! I cannot tell you how many times I've had a family member, care-giver, or device user ask me for a voice that better represents them.... I've had a wife ask me "do you have anything that's... sounds.... less vanilla"? If you've heard the various digital voices they do have a certain "homogenous sound". Until now, I've never been able to offer a solution, as the voices are made by a number of different companies which I don't work for and consequently have no agency over.
Last summer the Acapela Group, who makes a lot of the voices used across multiple AAC software manufactures announced that they would provide more diversity options within their voices. Well, recently Nicolas Mazars, Inclusive Product owner at Acapela Group announced "our mission is to provide a voice for all and we are proud to unveil a voice sample of the first African American English digital voice ever".
The folks at Acapela note that they called upon African American AAC users, SLPs, and the parents of young AAC users to help create the voice profile using their personal knowledge and feedback. This sounds to have been a truly collaborative approach with Acapela "asking, listening, sharing, discussing, and learning what could possibly be the right choice for a 'AAE' voice".
The new voice is named Tamira, and you can hear her here. Acapela reports that while Tamira is the first member of their family of voices, they expect to introduce a male, and 2 children's voices in a few weeks.
My understanding is that these voices are not ready yet to deploy on devices, but hopefully you will be hearing them soon!
I look forward to hearing the other voices, and hope that this push for increased diversity continues.