1998 Conference Proceedings

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Voice Recognition and Students with Writing Disabilities - Does it Work?

Katherine L. Myers, ATP
Office of Disability Services
Wright State University
E186 Student Union
Dayton, OH 45435
Voice: (937)775-5804
TDD: (937)775-5844
FAX: (937)775-5795
Internet: kmyers@wright.edu

As technology has improved, so has the use of it by individuals with disabilities. Wright State University is involved in an ongoing project that addresses the use of voice recognition by students with specific learning disabilities. In this presentation, I will focus on the issues we have identified and how we are addressing these issues.

1. Identify target group.

Theory - For some individuals with writing difficulties there is a disconnect between the thought processes and the physical act of writing regardless of whether the individual uses a keyboard or pen and paper to do the actual writing. An example of this is a student with very high oral communication skills, but writing skills at a first or second grade level. Based on this premise, we have identified the target group as individuals with severe writing difficulties with oral communication skills equal to educational level - in this case, post-secondary education.

2. Select voice recognition program.

At the time this project was started, DragonDictate(R) by Dragon Systems was considered to be the most accurate in voice recognition after training was completed. Therefore, it was chosen for the project. Since that time, however, other programs have improved considerably. As a result we are now evaluating other voice recognition packages in an effort to increase the options and further individualize the instruction within this project.

3. Training issues.

The primary concerns with regards to using voice recognition with individuals with writing disabilities surround the areas of training and recognition of misspelled words. When an individual has a severe writing disability, the two main areas of difficulty are grammar and spelling. Based on our theory, with the exception of punctuation, grammar difficulties would be compensated for through the use of oral communication (dictation). The question then becomes: How do you accurately train the computer when the individual is unable to spell the word correctly? This requires close individual instruction.

Through a 2 credit hour independent study we pair the student with a teaching assistant to go through the tutorial and additional word lists until we are sure the recognition is accurate. Part of the instruction also includes working with the student to understand when to save voice files and when not to save voice files as well as when additional training should be scheduled.

The additional word lists we are using are actually tongue twisters that are repeated and spelled when necessary until the recognition is 100%. Once that is achieved, the speed of dictation is increased and the words are repeated again until recognition is 100%. This is continued until the student is able to dictate the words at a rate comfortable for him/her. An example of the tongue twisters is "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers..." We have found this activity increases the accuracy level once the student is working independently.

The student is encouraged to schedule additional training sessions whenever he/she is working with new or different vocabulary, i.e., any of the sciences or technical areas. Word lists are then created from the vocabulary at the end of the chapters and/or the glossary at the end of the book. These word lists would then be repeated and spelled when necessary until the recognition is 100%. Again, this activity increases the accuracy level once the student is working independently.

The evaluation method for the independent study requires the student to produce several short papers written in a format used within his/her chosen profession. Mock interviews with other students are provided when necessary. For example: A student in social work would have a mock intake interview and then write up the intake interview using DragonDictate(R). The student would also be required to write up a set of case notes and a letter to another agency. This method is used to demonstrate a level of proficiency using DragonDictate(R) as a writing accommodation for the work place.

Throughout the instruction the student is encouraged to have final drafts proofread primarily for punctuation and correct word usage i.e., write or right, which the student might have missed while dictating.

4. Reliability issues.

Another area of concern when using voice recognition is reliability when the individual has a change in his/her voice. This change can be the result of a cold, momentary hoarseness, stress, or just an overall bad day. We have found that when the student is stressed or frustrated, the chance of a successful dictation session is greatly diminished. If the problems are due to a cold, the student is encouraged to schedule additional training and saves the voice files separately form the usual day to day files. The student is instructed in the need for advance planning to both reduce stressful situations and allow time for additional training if needed.

5. Conclusion.

This project is ongoing and the students are being worked with on an individual case by case basis. To demonstrate the success we are seeing, I have brought with me two writing samples. These were both done by the same student. The first is done using pen and paper. The content is as follows:

"Why I am in school so I can advance my self economicley and socicialy. Where I grew up as a young boy did not alow much time for an education. Also I became stangnent socially.

"Now I am in school trying to learn how to be a socialy excipitble person leaving behind the social conflict and vilonce I wonce knew while also trying catch up on the education that was once deprived from me.

"So I see school as not only a means to an education but also social advancement, and in the end a means to an income to suport my self."

The second was accomplished using DragonDictate(R) and no other assistance. The content is as follows:

"Subject is a 25 year old male veteran of the Desert Storm War who was injured during the conflict. Subject received a double leg amputation while he was participating in the conflict. Subject is now bitter about what happened to him. The bitterness is now creating ma rriage difficulties. He has a young daughter with CP. This maybe part of his bitterness. Subject may be seeking counseling for child abuse at this time.

"Subject needs counseling to deal with his injuries, and the problems that he may be facing. The areas I would suggest would be personal, marriage and abuse counseling. I would also suggest job rehabilitation training. Also I would suggest as part of the rehabilitation training that the subject learns how to use artificial legs. Also the subject could do some sort of volunteer work or some kind of recreation of his choosing."

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