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Independent Living rescued by a Dragon

The editor of the Independent Living website looks back at the role dictation software played in enabling the transition from enthusiastic and relentless keyboard use to hands-free computer operation.
Dragon speech recognition software celebrates its 20 year anniversary

Have you ever had that experience, where you suddenly realise that something is going badly wrong with a body part you depend on every day? For me, it was my arms and hands starting to make painful protests whenever I approached a computer keyboard. A disaster for someone running a website.

When pain leads to panic

    I worked my way through a gamut of “solutions”, from weirdly configured keyboards to mice like joysticks and more besides, with no relief from the pain. Not to mention the fear – which will be familiar to any self-employed person – that I was rapidly approaching the point where working would be too painful to carry on.

    This was more than a decade ago, and my online searching finally brought me to a forum that combined Mac computers, new tech and disability, where someone described using dictation software because she couldn’t type. Pretty much a lightbulb moment for me.

    I tracked down and installed the program, and started the slow process of training us both to work together.

    Perseverance paid off

      Those early days were almost as difficult as typing the traditional way, as I learnt to estimate distances around the screen to get the mouse from one place to another – multiple jumps back-and-forth usually involved. And trying to speak more coherently than normal, not to mention memorising the NATO alphabet. No more “D for daddy, E for elephant…”

      But the results were good enough to encourage perseverance, and before too long I was managing most tasks without using my hands or tearing out my hair. Today, the latest Dragon Dictate is so much smarter and faster that I would use it from preference, even if I didn’t have to. Being released from a headset mic is also a game changer!

      Ironically, the website I run is Independent Living, the longest-established information website for carers and people living with a disability. They say it’s the only minority that anyone can join, and when it happened to me – albeit in a relatively minor way – I know that I was very lucky to find a solution that allows me to carry on doing what I love.

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