Black Country teen using communication device on quest to find his voice - and you can help

An 18-year-old from Walsall who uses a communication device to speak is on the hunt for a new voice so he can sound more like his Black Country family.

Dan Challis with mum Sarah
Dan Challis with mum Sarah

Dan Challis from Aldridge has cerebral palsy and uses a communication aid to help him speak, but Dan wants to be able to speak with a regional accent.

A number of students at his school also use a communication device to speak, meaning they all have a similar sounding voice.

Dan's mother, 43-year-old Sarah Challis, said: "When he's at school, there are three or four students in his class who use a speech device so they all sound like each other.

"There are only a small selection of voices on the device and they don't reflect his voice. They're robotic, they're not natural.

"So Dan's hoping for something more natural, that will make him sound more like him."

Dan's quest was inspired by Britain's Got Talent winner, 41-year-old comedian Lee Ridley, who goes by the stage name Lost Voice Guy.

Lee Ridley also has cerebral palsy and speaks with a communication device.

Last year, he decided he wanted to find a voice with a Geordie accent so he could sound more like his family and friends.

Sarah added: "Dan watched Lost Voice Guy from the beginning, when he first auditioned a few years ago.

"Dan and his friends at school loved it, that there was someone not just speaking with a communication aid, but telling jokes, being funny, and doing comedy.

"It was something they could relate to, that they could do something fun and not just serious.

"It opened up a bigger world of acceptance.

"We followed Lost Voice Guy's journey to find a new voice on TV, and I could see that Dan was getting quite excited.

"I asked him if he wanted to do it too and he said yes, but he didn't think he'd get any people message back."

Dan and Sarah have been overwhelmed with the responses they have had so far.

Anyone with a Walsall accent can apply to be Dan's new voice, and all they need to do is record themselves reading the first page of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

"He loves Harry Potter, and we wanted something that Dan knew well," Sarah added.

Dan is now considering how he wants his new voice to sound, debating with his family how to pronounce certain words.

For example, his father and grandfather pronounce moustache with an "ash" sound, while his mother uses an "osh" sound.

As the word appears in the opening section of Philosopher's Stone, Dan thought about the word and decided he would pronounce it like "moust-osh".

Dan will go to a residential college later this year to start a personal and social development course.

Hopefully, by then, he'll be a step closer to speaking with his dream voice.

Sarah added: "Dan loves communicating. He's always messaging someone, asking them how they are - he's very caring.

"So when he goes into this new environment, he'll be showing his identity and who he really is."

BBC Radio WM will be holding auditions for Dan's new voice.

To apply, send a recording of yourself reading the first page of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and send it to radiowm@bbc.co.uk or danchallis.voiceauditions@gmail.com.

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