The face of accessibility users is changing. The stereotypical accessibility user used to be someone over 60 whose farsighted eyes needed extra large fonts to read the screen. This person’s motor skills were not used to small, delicate motions like those used to maneuver a mouse. In fact, they would complain and ask their kids why that thing was called a mouse anyway. They often mutter “This confounded thing," when referring to their computer, the Internet or their email. The new face of accessibility users looks much different.
The stereotypical accessibility user today is much younger, doesn’t need to puff up the font any, has a solid understanding of technology and has probably done self-searching on Google. This person has been playing video games since they were 15 years old, using a mouse for the last five years, sending out text messages in unlimited quantities each month, wearing wrist guards to work, typing papers for school, or doing data entry at their last two jobs. These people are never over five feet away from some electronic device. The reason they are an accessibility user is because they’ve spent so much time on the computer. Their wrists and hands hurt because of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) or Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI).
I was only 33 years old when I was diagnosed with CTS and tendonitis in both of my hands, elbows and wrists. I was playing bass in a band, working as a network engineer at a small insurance company and making my way through grad school papers at 30 pages a pop. After I got over the initial embarrassment of getting a “sissy injury," I pledged to fight back against the tyranny of the mouse and keyboard. This became my mantra: “If technology gave me this problem, then there must be existing technology to fix this problem." I’ve used ergonomic keyboards, ergonomic mice, touch pads (http://www.kinesis-ergo.com/), a Wacom digital pad (http://www.wacom.com/ ), a hands-free mouse (http://www.naturalpoint.com/), and voice recognition software (http://www.nuance.com/).
I currently use a foot clicker (http://www.kinesis-ergo.com/) coupled with Windows Vista Speech Recognition (http://www.microsoft.com/). I point with my mouse, click with my foot, type with my voice, pick with my finger and slurp with my mouth. Central to my regiment of computing is Microsoft Windows Vista Speech Recognition.
The voice-to-text engine found in Vista Speech Recognition is powerful, intuitive and extensive. This handy application is Microsoft’s answer to the ever-increasing requests for alternative ways to input data into a computer. This program accepts commands for working with windows, dictates into mainstream word-processing and email programs, fills out forms on the Web, and allows you to click anywhere on the screen with only your voice. Keystrokes are outdated.
The average purchaser of Windows Vista may not even know that Speech Recognition shipped with their operating system. It is not on the Start menu. It is not in the All Programs menu. You have to dig for Speech Recognition. You start Speech Recognition from the Control Panel [see Control Panel Start screenshot.] From there, you can open Speech Recognition, set up your microphone [see Microphone Setup 01-04 screenshots,] train your computer, change settings and get help. With Windows Speech Recognition, your voice is heard right from the start. A guided setup and tutorial familiarizes you with key concepts and commands. Windows Speech Recognition also features an innovative, intuitive user interface that assists you in controlling many operations of your computer by voice. Let’s look some of the available features:
Dictation: this is what saves keystrokes on the keyboard. You can dictate into Microsoft Word, Microsoft Outlook, Notepad, and other various applications to produce emails and documents. You can then use commands to save your document and open and close programs that you’re using.
Commands: this gives you dictatorial leadership over your computer. You can open and close applications, format and save documents, and click anywhere on the screen [see Mousegrid screenshot.] You can switch between applications that you are using, copy and paste text and browse the Internet. You can also print out Common Commands in Speech Recognition [see Speech Recognition Commands 01-06 screenshots] from the Speech Recognition control panel interface [see Voice Recognition Control Panel screenshot.] This will help you to know what to say when using this program.
Correction: you can fix words that were incorrectly interpreted easily by selecting that word using the correction feature in Speech Recognition. It normally gives you different options to choose from.
Simple User Interface: the taskbar can either be “docked" or “undocked" [see Docked At The Top and Undocked screenshots] depending on your preference. When you right click on the taskbar, it gives you many options to choose for correction as well as settings for Speech Recognition.
Constant Learning: you can set up Speech Recognition to learn more about your style from documents that are already on your machine. You can also do more training on your own to teach Speech Recognition more about your speaking style [see Speech Recognition Training, Speech Recognition Training 02 screen shots.] The more that you use Speech Recognition, the better it understands you. The better it understands you, the faster it will run.
Tutorial: there is a tutorial embedded in the program on your machine [see Tutorial screen shot] as well as in online tutorial to teach you how to use this program.
Multiple Languages: Speech Recognition is available in English (United States,) English (United Kingdom,) German (Germany,), French (France,) Spanish (Spain,) Japanese, Traditional Chinese, and Simplified Chinese.
Windows Vista Home Basic can be purchased for $184.99. Voice recognition software from a competitor with all of the options that are available in Windows Vista Speech Recognition costs much more. And you don’t even get this groovy operating system from the competitor for that price. When shopping for voice recognition software, you’d be wise to consider Microsoft Windows Vista with Speech Recognition. By the way, this entire review was written through the power of Vista Speech Recognition.