DictationBridge, opening the market for speech-recognition

There’s been quite a bit of discussion in the world of assistive technology about DictationBridge. As we wind up our fundraising efforts for the project we’d like to take a moment for some clarification. The team and the DictationBridge product has ignited a spark in the assistive technology arena. The team and the product have also taken some criticism.
A few people have taken the view that DictationBridge is about negating other products because the project has mentioned some downsides in other products. DictationBridge is not about bashing Freedom Scientific or any other assistive technology. There are commercial decisions screen reader manufacturers have made which have shaped the adaptive technology ecosystem. And, as end users, we have to live with the consequences of these decisions.
DictationBridge is focusing on what it brings to the table and about creating an inclusive environment. Our initial thought was to focus on NVDA. However, DictationBridge welcomes everyone. We are including Window-eyes, Zoomtext, and jaws users. DictationBridge is bringing speech-recognition support to these environments at no cost for end-users. This is something new in these ecosystems.
For that matter, DictationBridge is future proof. If another screen reader comes along, DictationBridge is architected such that it can be connected to that screen reader via standard Windows data sharing mechanisms such as COM.
DictationBridge is broadening the user base for speech-recognition. The first way it is doing this is by eliminating the price barrier. Instead of having to spend over $1500 on a solution, assuming you buy it from scratch, you spend $0 and have a working solution using Windows Speech Recognition (WSR) and NVDA.
The second barrier DictationBridge eliminates is one of screen reader preference. You may be a Window Eyes user, A JAWS user, an NV Access user, , or a ZoomText user. You may want to try speech-recognition with your chosen assistive technology. DictationBridge will give you the ability to do just that. You may decide to continue using the solution or decide to switch. Either way, there are no fees involved, no need to worry about renewing software maintenance agreements and no need to write funding applications to your state agency.

Let us take some examples.
James is a blind entrepreneur but injures his hand and is unable to type. He knows he has to continue working. He has heard of speech-recognition and decides to try it. He has a little bit of vision so he uses ZoomText for magnification and speech. In the current scenario, he does not have a solution. DictationBridge is going to be a generic solution which will talk to ZoomText and WSR or Dragon. Once James recovers, he may continue to use speech-recognition for productivity or he can resume a keyboard only way of working.
Take another example of Ram who has cerebral palsy, CP, and is blind. He lives in a developing country. He goes to a job fair and lands his first job at a hotel doing administrative work. Ram knows he has to type quickly but because of his CP he’s having trouble.
Today, he will have to request his employer buy additional software and spend over 100000 rupees to get him up and running and working productively. However, with DictationBridge, all he has to do is ask the IT team to install NVDA and DictationBridge.
Ram is a good worker and rises quickly to become general manager. He now has to use the hotel ERP system which has an add-on that works with Jaws. DictationBridge enabled Ram to begin his career. As a member of the management team he was able to smoothly transition to using DictationBridge with JAWS and Dragon.
DictationBridge was just the tool Ram needed for a chance to enter the workforce.

Why I Am Building DictationBridge

My name is Pranav Lal, I live in India and this is why I’m involved in the DictationBridge project, one to which I hope you contribute to by opening this link.”

I have been using speech-recognition for over a decade. I began using it seriously when I had a bout of repetitive stress injury (RSI). I remember the days when I had to speak slowly and very carefully to maximize accuracy. Most of my experience has been with Dragon Individual earlier known as Dragon Naturally Speaking because of my accent. Over the years, I have tried a variety of add-ons to enhance my speech-recognition experience. Once I had more or less recovered from my RSI, I began to appreciate its productivity benefits.

I recently changed to a situation where NVDA became my primary screen reader. Before I switched, I had been using it off and on, waiting for the features I needed to come in. When the ability to read Excel charts and the ability to handle track changes and other annotations came, I knew it was time to switch. The ability to hear the text processed by Dragon was the only missing feature I needed. DictationBridge’s primary function is to echo back the recognized text as a user dictates. This gives immediate feedback and helps me catch errors and confirm what I have dictated is correct. In the NVDA spirit, Dictation Bridge is free and open source and, therefore, will be extensible by individuals with programming skills and will come at no cost to end users.

You can do what you want with it therefore there are no barriers to the creation of novel applications. The other thing is that DictationBridge will bring dictation to people who traditionally would not have access to use this feature. Unfortunately, a large chunk of the world’s population falls into this category. Think of a blind quadriplegic or a blind child in rural India. NVDA is being distributed widely thanks to several non-governmental organizations and suitable government schemes. It is also a great tool to promote literacy. In India, according to some statistics there are 15 million blind people, 2 million are children. One out of three blind people in the world lives in India. Think of them using speech-recognition with echo back. The ability to read and write will no longer be a barrier and we can begin to bring this population into the mainstream.

Please contribute to DictationBridge.