Recently, I began to have more difficulty using my hands. The form of hereditary peripheral neuropathy that I have, Charcot Marie Tooth (CMT), affects the hands. I noticed difficulties with opening jars, using chopsticks, and flossing my teeth. Most noticeably, I find that I sometimes have difficulty typing accurately. Because computer work makes up a large part of my work as an online instructor and writer for BellaOnline, I decided to try a voice recognition program called Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium, Version 11 from a company called Nuance.
The program proved easy to download and setup. It required some about twenty minutes of training to recognize my voice. Once I completed the training, I was able to start using Dragon NaturallySpeaking immediately. I speak at a normal speed with a natural tone, but use a different tone for commands. Words appear on my screen quite quickly.
Accuracy has improved as I have completed additional training exercises and corrected errors. Sometimes, however, the program misunderstands my speech in amusing ways. For example, in a recent post to my students, it heard “pure pressure” rather than “peer pressure.” Careful proofreading to avoid this type of error remains important.
The effectiveness of Dragon NaturallySpeaking also declines with background noise. Because I have children, I sometimes find that I cannot use the program for this reason. Listening to music while using the program reduces accuracy as well.
When using the program, I must also remember to turn of the microphone when interrupted by family members. Recently, I forgot to turn of the microphone when talking to my son. Several sentences regarding “using the potty” (currently a hot topic in my home as my son makes progress!) inserted into my document.
The Dragon Bar that appears to the right of my screen makes it easy to access the commands that I need. Learning to use commands required some persistence on my part, but has quickly become easier. I do find that sometimes the program mistakes the content of my speech for a command. This happens infrequently in Windows Word, but more often in other programs, such as Windows PowerPoint.
The headset with a microphone that came with the program easily plugged into my computer. I find it reasonably comfortable to wear and the microphone easy to adjust.
In preparing for this article, I found that others with neuromuscular disease (for example, CMT and Friedrich’s ataxia) have found Dragon NaturallySpeaking to be useful to them as well. You will find web addresses for a couple of those articles below in Resources.
If you decide to try Dragon NaturallySpeaking, make sure that your computer meets the system requirements to run the program properly. You can find the web address below under resources. Nuance recently came out with a speech recognition program for Apple computer users as well called dragon for Mac. I do not know any specifics regarding that program, but have provided an address below for those who want to find out about Dragon for Mac.
Overall, I find Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium, Version 11 to be useful and easy to use. It has reduced the stress on my hands. This improves my hand function and reduces my frustration, allowing me to better participate in other useful activities such as opening jars and flossing my teeth. Most importantly, it lets me continue to teach my online classes and write these articles to communicate with you.
Barbara Twardowski, (2004). Talk to Type: Speech Recognition Software. http://www.mda.org/publications/quest/q113talk2type.html . Retrieved 11/22/10.
Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium, Tech Specs (n.d.). http://www.nuance.com/for-individuals/by-product/dragon-for-pc/premium-version/index.htm . Retrieved 11/22/10.
Speech Recognition for the Mac (n.d.). http://www.nuance.com/for-individuals/by-product/dragon-for-mac/index.htm . Retrieved 11/22/10.
Wechsler, Kathy, (2009). Office Makeover: How Assistive Technology Saved My Job. http://quest.mda.org/series/accessible-workspaces/office-makeover . Retrieved 11/22/10.
Disclosure: This product was purchased by me for my personal use.