I’m Erin, a member of the DictationBridge team working on documentation and social media for the project. When I first heard about DictationBridge, I was eager to get involved for many reasons, but some of the most compelling were the stories of my students during the years I worked as a full time assistive technology trainer.
If I had a dollar for every time I heard, “But Erin, can’t I just talk to the computer?” I could make a significant contribution to the DictationBridge funding campaign. Sometimes this question came during the frustration of learning to touch type, but often it came from a place of much more profound need. Elders in their eighties and nineties had stories they needed to pass down to their grand children and pushed themselves to master typing skills despite failing health, diabetic neuropathy, and hand tremors. Young people with dyslexia and other learning disabilities, some of whom had passed through the K12 education system without gaining basic literacy skills, excelled at performing most tasks on the computer, but slumped in frustration when it came time to write documents and emails. Individuals who had experienced strokes and other brain injuries faced the complex combination of cognitive and motor skills required to both remember commands and execute them on the keyboard. Busy and fatigued graduate students looked for an opportunity to give their hands a rest while composing long papers.
Assistive technology funding varies vastly throughout the world, and I can’t possibly speak to what support individuals receive in other regions. Only some of the individuals I described above received state funded technology support, and none of them received funding for dictation solutions. Often they used PCs handed down from friends or family members, and the NVDA screen reader allowed access to their computers without financial burden. when it came to dictation software however, I didn’t have a recommendation that was financially attainable. I know there are many blind computer users besides my former students without the right tools to tell their own stories, and I hope you will join me in supporting DictationBridge. The next time someone asks me if they can talk to their computer, I want to be able to say, “Yes!”