Friday, February 15, 2008

Talking the Talk with Speech Recognition Software

There is a type of assistive technology that I use most every day. It is easy to use and relatively affordable. I am referring to speech recognition software that I began using back in 2002. At the time, I could still type fairly well but I knew from experience that my fine motor skills could be affected during an MS exacerbation (attack). I requested the software and a microphone from my employer as a "reasonable accommodation." My motto has always been that crisis management doesn't mean you wait until a crisis to figure out how you'll manage it. In other words, I began using the software before I needed to use the software and I'm glad I used that strategy because now I am very proficient talking to my computer.

Using speech recognition software reminds me of the old days of using a computer. The adage back then was that the computer was only as intelligent as the person using it. The same holds true for speech recognition. The software just tries to put down the sounds it hears, making its best guess. It can't interpret mumbling or stammering and it certainly can't make babbling or rambling logical. Patience is more than a virtue when using speech recognition; it's a necessity. If I start yelling into my microphone "that's not what I said" or begin to swear, my rantings will appear up on the screen.

Here is my advice for making speech recognition software work for you. First, don't look at the screen when you're dictating. You'll find yourself using an unnatural speech pattern and the quality of the recognition will be poor. You're better off to dictate in sentences or even paragraphs and then go back and edit. Secondly, take the time to train your software to learn your speech patterns. Things such as a regional accent or colloquialisms make it necessary for your computer to understand how you talk. Finally, and most importantly, manually proofread your text before you send it off by e-mail, send it for publication etc.

Like it or not, computers have become an important part of our everyday lives. Speech recognition software enables someone like me to stay connected to the world without dependency on my fine motor skills. I certainly would never have attempted this blog without it. So, if you are using Microsoft Vista, check out the Ease of Access section under the control panel and there you'll find a sophisticated speech recognition program for you to try. All you need is a microphone and a bit of persistence, then you too can start shouting at your computer.

Learn more about speech recognition software

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