2000 Conference Proceedings

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Speech Boomerang

Mark Nelson
The Foundation for Blind Children
Phoenix, AZ
Email: mnelson@the-fbc.org


Major advances in the area of speech recognition technology have been made within the past twelve months. This technology will be used by all computer users, disabled or not, as a standard computer interface on a regular basis in a very short time. Speech recognition technology is now providing, and will continue to provide, an even better and higher level of access to a computer system for a physically impaired verbal person than ever before. For the blind and physically impaired person, however, it poses yet another access challenge. This is because the speech output software used by a blind person and/or the speech recognition software requires significant and complex configuration to allow the blind and physically impaired user to benefit from the technology. This is because the user needs the ability to review the information on the screen via voice commands. Therefore, the speech recognition product must, upon voice command, execute the speech output program's command which provides audible feedback. In short, without configuration of the two technologies as speech recognition technology becomes more broadly used, the blind user will have unequal access and the blind physically impaired user will have inadequate/unacceptable access. I have been attending assistive technology conferences since 1990 seeing several presentations on speech recognition technology. However, none that I can remember, have addressed the specific needs of blind/visually and physically impaired users. The workshop I propose doing will do just that. It will explain and address the special issues/needs of persons with vision loss and physical impairments with regard to using speech output and speech recognition technologies, the technical issues related to making the two technologies fully support one another to meet those needs, review the issues surrounding the provision of training to a user of the two technologies, and provide a demonstration of the two technologies working together showing both the strengths and weaknesses of the speech output/speech recognition access solution.


SUMMARY

Major advances in speech recognition technology have been made within the past year. All computer users, disabled or not, will use it as a standard interface very soon. This technology is providing physically impaired persons with a higher level of access than ever before. For the blind and physically impaired person, however, it poses yet another access challenge.

This workshop will address the needs of visually and physically impaired users of these technologies, the technical issues of making the programs fully support one another, training issues, and provide a demonstration of the technologies working together showing the strengths and weaknesses of this access solution.

Major advances in the area of speech recognition technology have been made within the past year. This technology will be used regularly by all computer users, disabled or not, as a standard interface in a very short time. Speech recognition technology is now providing and will continue to provide even a better and higher level of access for a physically impaired verbal person than ever before. For the blind and physically impaired person, however, it poses yet another access challenge. This workshop will address the special issues/needs of persons with vision loss and physical impairments who use these technologies, the technical issues related to making the programs fully support one another, review the issues surrounding the provision of training to a user of the technologies, and provide a demonstration of the technologies working together showing the strengths and weaknesses of this access solution.

I have nearly nine years experience in the area of assistive technology including sales, consulting, system analysis, system integration and configuration, troubleshooting, job-site analysis, computer training (general and adaptive), and program management. I've worked nearly 2.5 years managing the Technology Center for the Oregon Commission for the Blind and three years as the Technology Center Director at the Foundation for Blind Children. I've also taught a Masters level course in the area of assistive technology and job/education site analysis for both Portland State University and the University of Arizona from 1993-present.


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