2002 Conference Proceedings

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USING SNAPOUT WITH VISUALLY IMPAIRED USERS TO INTRODUCE SPEECH RECOGNITION TRAINING

Lorraine Cleeton, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Special Education
St. Bonaventure University
Department of Special Education
St. Bonaventure, New York, 14778
Email: lcleeton@hotmail.com 

Gilbert Cleeton, Ph.D.
Director of Adaptability
Adaptive Technology for Individuals with Disabilities
12 Chestnut Close, Gnosall, Stafford England
Email: gcleeton@hotmail.com

INTRODUCTION

Users of assistive technology become aware of new hardware and software through various means such as joining newsgroups. However, those who suddenly become deaf, paralyzed, visually impaired, etc., might not be aware of how to obtain information about these products. Through using a CD-ROM (SNAPOUT), dedicated to assistive technology, the user can find out what hardware and software are suggested for their different disabilities. The visually impaired are also able to navigate this software using Jaws for Windows.

The original intention of writing SNAPOUT was to shorten the time needed for assessment of an disabled individual's hardware and software needs, but its subsequent usage world-wide also built up a prolific database for research into disability in the student population and in particular lifelong learning for mature students. In a case study in Runcorn England at Halton Vision Resource, individuals that had suddenly experienced Macular Degeneration, brain tumors, and worsening Retinitis Pigmentosa and Ushers Syndrome were invited to try SNAPOUT. These individuals were not Braille-Users at the time and after viewing SNAPOUT they opted to learn how to use Voice Recognition Software (Dragon Naturally Speaking Version 5).

A grant from the European Social Fund had been secured to deliver a one-year course in Assistive Technology, called SPEECHTECHNOLOGY, to mature students with visual impairments. These mature students assistive technology needs were assessed by letting them use SNAPOUT as an introduction to the hardware and software available for disabled users. After using SNAPOUT the majority of the students wanted to try voice recognition software. Dragon Naturally Speaking, Version 5 was selected. As most of the individuals had suffered loss of vision in later life they were not sure about how long it would take them to learn Braille and were interested in being trained on voice recognition software to quickly introduce them to word-processing.

SNAPOUT was given to a sample of twelve students. Four had Macular Degeneration, four had Retinitis Pigmentosa, two had brain tumors and two were deaf/blind. The outcomes achieved by SNAPOUT were it gave assessments in much less time, exposed students to a wider range of adaptations, was more user-friendly, accessible to a wider range of disabilities and enabled students to take a more independent, active role in their choice of hardware and software for their particular disability.

SPEECH RECOGNITION TRAINING

Twelve visually impaired people mature students were trained in how to use Dragon Naturally Speaking Version 5 Software. Those who had some vision were given the training texts in large print. Those without any vision were given taped instruction and those who were deaf/blind had to repeat line for line the training instruction, guided by their assigned trainer in assistive technology. When individual files for each student were set up they would come back on a weekly basis for more training. For the students that had Macular Degeneration which had suddenly worsened and were not previously Braille-Users speech recognition seemed the most appropriate type of training. These students were interested in learning how to write letters, simple essays and emails. The students with Retinitis Pigmentosa who had previously been Braille-Users were interested in learning how to use speech recognition as an alternative communicator. The deaf/blind users were interested in speech recognition because with their hearing aids amplified, it was the first time they had ever heard their own voice.

CONCLUSION

The students at Halton Vision Resource after training were able to use the software at home. There were two students with brain tumors, two with Macular Degeneration and two with Retinitis Pigmentosa that were trying to work from home as self-employed computer operators after being trained in speech recognition software. All the students were unaware that they could be trained on this software before they started the course. They filled in a questionnaire afterwards and the feedback reported was that SNAPOUT had introduced them to speech recognition software and they now felt they had received a informative overview of the spectrum of assistive hardware and software available through using SNAPOUT. Individual action plans were also written for each student after using SNAPOUT.


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