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Communication - and voice recognition technology
#19 (In Topic #18)
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admin2 in the usergroup ‘Administrators’


If there was anything fortunate about the progression of Christine's MS, it would be that her brain and speech remained largely unaffected, even once quadriplegia had deprived her of even a semblance of movement below the neck.  Christine's voice did become quieter over time and, for the last few years, she used a portable voice amplifier when she was attending meetings, and latterly even at home on occasions.

I guess we were lucky to be living in a time when technology is making such advances.  Use of a computer had always been essential for Christine's work and, as it became progressively more difficult for her to use a mouse and a keyboard, she was an early adopter of voice recognition technology.  In the early days, this involved DragonDictate which was pretty good for the time but had the disadvantage that you could only dictate a single word and then must wait to see if your intended word actually appeared on screen ('Deficient' when you said 'efficient', or 'peach' instead of 'peace' as in the Nobel Peach Prize!)  Very few jobs nowadays won't involve use of a computer, and most professionals will spend long hours creating hundreds if not thousands of pages of text, plans, proposals, spreadsheets, etc.  If you want to operate in this world - and Christine definitely did - not being able to use a computer would be a problem!  Fortunately, voice recognition technology more than kept up with Christine's needs.  In the area of computing at least, quadriplegia was not an issue.  

By the time Christine reached the stage of being unable to use a keyboard and mouse, voice recognition technology in the form of Dragon NaturallySpeaking was becoming increasingly sophisticated.  NaturallySpeaking just happens to be the application that we chose, although it is probably the market leader.  However, there are other options.  Without this technology again, it would have been impossible for Christine to participate to the degree and level that she did.  The technology can be used to control every aspect of a PC or Mac, although some activities that involve a lot of use of a mouse would be quite laborious.

What voice recognition technology is best at, and what Christine needed, was the ability to put text onscreen and the latest versions do this almost as quickly and accurately as you can speak.  Christine could therefore work more quickly and produce more than many non-disabled people.  It would be hard to overstate the importance of this technology in allowing Christine to be the person and influence that she was.  Anyone who ever received an email from Christine, or read a paper or review that she had written would have been looking at the product of voice recognition technology.  One of her last roles was as a lay reviewer assessing multithousand pound research bids for National Institute of Health Research funding.  Using only her voice she was able to move around and complete the complex forms required, and I know that the quality of her reviews was highly thought of.

Nothing to do with disability, but I'm using Dragon NaturallySpeaking to write this blog.  I use it all the time just because it is so much quicker than typing.  I can't understand why anyone would continue to use something as primitive as a keyboard!

Cost - a PC or Mac is required.  Cost of Dragon NaturallySpeaking package around £75

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