Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Inaccessibility, Speech-to-text, Post-surgery 'fun' and Other Stories

Trey Harris's eloquent report on his recent surgery and the resultant need to use dictation software - in his case, mostly Dragon Dictate - should stand as a wake-up call to anyone who builds such software. Massive improvements are needed.

There are more and more people who need to be able to use reliable speech-to-text, speech-to-code and voice-control software; either because of temporary disability - post-surgery or injury - or because of permanent disabilities. We need it to live 21st Century lives, whether that be social interaction on the internet, preparing books or letters or posters or whatever for hobbies, or, indeed, in our working lives. There is a massive market there and absolutely anybody could need this tomorrow, either short- or long-term.

And there is a massive, mostly untapped, potential market amongst all the people who would love to be able to say, "Computer: print me a copy of the letter to Phipps & Co. and put dinner with Jo and her lot in my diary for next Friday and open G+ for me please. New post. Take dictation..." - and have it all happen. Smoothly. There's a Mac Concept film: Apple's 1987 Knowledge Navigator Video, on the theme of future-computer, where the guy and his computer converse in natural speech. It might have inspired, or been inspired by, Heinlein and/or Arthur C. Clark. Trey Harris found it for me after I’d tried and failed. But that future should be now or hereabout!

Honestly? Full accessibility should be baked-in to every OS - and every browser! - by now, damn it! After all, just as with wide access gates at stations, automatic or button-operated doors at shops, libraries, hospitals, etc., ramps and level entries on buildings, everybody would use it – even when they're not burdened with prams, buggies, or both hands full!

And, Googlers and Blogger Team, that goes for visual accessibility on every web-page (or site) too. It's not enough to say, oh you can set preferred or minimum text sizes and page-contrast in your browser or system-preferences-pane. Not while every web-site uses a different font-size to start with so you often end up having to over-ride your over-ride. A small control panel with three sizes of 'A's and two or three contrast settings, tucked into the settings cog in the black bar - and repeated in the sign-up process - then remembered as your personal site settings - would do it. Please?

P.S. I typed this, rather than dictating it. My speech has reached the slurr-y stage, editing-in punctuation is a drag and, right now, my typing is less slurr-y ;-)

P.P.S. I originally wrote this as an introduction to a ‘share’ of Trey’s post but Rowan Thunder suggested I put it up as an individual post. I’m also posting it to my blog.


This is Trey’s original post, which I’d ask you to read - there are some good hints and tips in the comments on it, too!

This is the link to Apple’s ‘Knowledge Navigator’ video:

This is the link to this article on Google+. If you read it there, you'll notice some minor differences:

Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov are twentieth-century ‘hard’ Science Fiction writers, all of whom included ‘aware’ computers in at least some of their novels. You can find out more about them here:


Robert said...

Yes i agree i used one for a while but went back to using a pointer to type, sadly you explain to people why some words and spelled with double letters but you get called moron of idiot. but thats the country these days

RockHorse said...

Thank you for your comment, Robert. I hadn't given thought to the problems inherent in using a pointer to type, other than that it must be quite a slow process. I'm guessing that inaccuracies are caused by a combination of the system/programme's pointer- and key-response-times and predictive text, rather like with using a touch-screen when my fingers miss what I'm aiming for?

Are the point-to-type programmes improving and being up-dated regularly and at an affordable cost? And can you tell me which speech-to-text programme you used?

Sorry to ask so many questions but it's another important area of accessibility which might be even more 'left out' than speech-to-text – and then there's the question of screen-readers (text-to-speech) which also don't seem to work across all web-sites and programmes.

incurable hippie said...

Such a great post, and so important. It's unreal that the web is so far behind in accessibility, when so many disabled people rely on it so much.

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