Proud Yorkshireman with cerebral palsy has got his accent back thanks to new speech aid voice

A proud Yorkshireman with cerebral palsy whose computer-generated voice sounded American has spoken of his delight after he finally got a voice in his native accent.

Richie Cottingham, 26, cried tears of joy when he heard his new accent for the first time and sounded like his family and friends from Howden.

His speech aid used to be in a generic and robotic American accent which he hated, but he said he finally feels like he can call himself a Yorkshireman.

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Richie has lived in East Yorkshire his entire life and launched an appeal in March for people in the region to come forward to help him create his own unique voice.

Richie Cottingham, 26, cried tears of joy when he heard his new accent for the first time and sounded like his family and friends from Howden. (Pic: SWNS)
Richie Cottingham, 26, cried tears of joy when he heard his new accent for the first time and sounded like his family and friends from Howden. (Pic: SWNS)

He said he was delighted by how the voice turned out and couldn’t wait to order his favourite drink with his new voice – a Jack Daniels and Coke.

Richie, from Hull, said: “I was very emotional they were lots of tears, tears of joy of course. I was incredibly happy with it and loved saying things to see how they sounded with my new voice instead of an American Robot voice.

“I didn’t know how long it would take for people to get used to hearing the new me. But everyone loves my new voice.”

Richie, who has had cerebral palsy since birth, said the Yorkshire accent which was created for him was perfect.

More than 35 people recorded their voices, but ultimately three people’s voices were blended together to create Richie’s unique accent.

The ‘clever’ process involves getting three people to say roughly 200 phrases before their voices are merged together so it creates a completely new voice.

Richie added: “My old voice was very robotic, and it was an American voice. It also sounded the exact same as all the other people that use these machines to communicate so I decided that I wanted my own unique voice so I do not sound like everyone else.

“I thought since I am a Yorkshire lad then a Yorkshire accent would be very fitting for me. I wanted to sound different from the other people who use a talker, but I also wanted to sound like my family and friends from Yorkshire.”

Speech therapist Jennifer Benson, 46, has been helping Richie 'find his voice' and said that she had never seen him smile like the day he heard it for the first time.

She has been working closely with Richie for more than a year and said she felt ‘immensely proud and privileged’ to be part of his journey.

She said: “I’m delighted with how Richie’s voice has turned out – it is a completely new blend of voices which is unique to him and will belong to him alone. It has been really interesting to see which voices Richie has chosen all the way through the process.

"I think at every point he has chosen different voices to the ones I would have chosen for him, which really shows how individual a choice it is, and how important it has been for Richie to be making those choices.

“It was critical to get the perfect voice for Richie – this voice will now express his identity and personality so it had to be just right, in the same way that we all have a voice that represents who we are and where we come from.

“It is a combination of unique to Richie, but with the same regional accent as his friends and family, so he can belong to his group whilst maintaining his individuality.

“Richie always has a great smile, but I can honestly say I have never seen as big a smile when he first gave me that demo of his new voice."

Gareth Boyes, who was one of the three men who helped create Richie's voice, said the Yorkshire accent is the ‘best in the country’.

The 24-year-old said: “I am of course biased but I have to say the Yorkshire accent is the best in the country and certainly the friendliest I have come across.

“I think it's extremely important as not only does it stimulate conversation with the countless people we meet through life, it also gives us an identity that we share with our family and some of our friends.

“I think on the whole we take our voice and accents for granted and don't realise how lucky we are to have them so it's great that Richie can now feel like his voice is the same as that of his family.”