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H810 Activity 14.1 Using assistive technology - reflection on access to learning through acccess to work

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 21 Oct 2012, 14:42


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Fig.1 From 'Access to work' a video from MicroLink

Any of us could or will stumble the first time we are faced with a new tool or piece of software - I'd like to see any of us tested using a tool such as Delicious or ScoopIt and see how we get on, or trying to use a Microwriter, programme the washing machine or even turn on someone else's Microwave.

All experiences become familiar in time if we give them a go or get some useful tips. The same implies whether or not you have a disability or combination of disabilities or not.

To make sense of the plethora of accessibility tools, software and built-in 'assists' - and the equally enormous combinations and varieties of people who may benefit from using them I am having to get into my minds eye four people, or 'personas' who have quite different needs and imagine them, in context, wanting to and trying to use tools that ought to improve access for them. Some intriguingly are likely to suit all users if they offer a short cut or a different way into the information - I prefer a transcript over lectures. I like to use narrator in the car or when busy with some other task like painting the shed - the book is read to me as I can't do what I am doing and look at the screen at the same time. I call this the 'Montesori Effect' - how meeting a learning challenge for one community of learners you gain insights and create tools that benefit everyone.

As for any of us, when it comes to learning, context is important whether we have the space, time, kit and inclination. There is a big difference between giving something a go and having to use it with a set goal in mind. Anyone remember the first time they had to create something using PowerPoint, or Word come to think of it? Or writing a blog - let alone embedding images, video or audio.

Some of this reminds me of my first computer - an Amstrad. All green text and no mouse. My father got himself a Microwriter and mastered it. Bizarre. Confined to a wheelchair (badly broken leg from skiing) for some months in my early teens I ought to have been able to keep up with school work - but somehow a box of books didn't do it for me.

When I get stuck I can now turn to a son, daughter or my wife who may or may not be able to help. We also pick up the phone to 'The Lewes Computer Guy' for technical fixes. Had I a disability how likely is it that I can turn to someone with the very same set of challenges that I face for tips and advice? On some context a blind person will and can turn to a supportive community, but this might not be so easy if you are, or feel like, the only person with Dyslexia or Cerebral Palsy at your schoolor university.

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Dragon breath and the slow demise of text

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 2 Feb 2011, 05:04

I first used Dragon Speaking Naturally, the voice recognition software, when it first came out in 1997. The CEO of Unipart Group of Companies John Neil was trialing it. This and the Internet were his passions (indeed all new technologies he insisted on exploiting for their potential).

Between 1994 and 1998 I spent between one and three weeks a month working here as an outside supplier to the communications team directing regular video news and training 'films' that were distributed internally, to suppliers and to shareholders i.e. all their 'stakeholders.'

Today I find I am still drawing upon the insights I gained on Learning & Training Development at that time. Unipart, lead by John Neil, were the advance guard, pushing employee development further than any other business I was aware of.

Back to Speach Recognition

At the time my only use for it was to read back scripts. Am I talking about the same thing? There was something on my Apple too that by writing phonetically you could have it speaking in a Geordie accent. I recall spending some time trying to 'teach' voice recognition software to understand me. My spoken voice is, despite being brought up on Tyneside, recognisably RP ... even dare I say Public School / Oxbridge (so no doubt meeting the requirements of my highly aspirational middle class parents). I think it was still 'tuned in' to an American intonation.

Why I gave up?

I find the delay (there is some) between the thought and my fingers on the keyboard works, whereas voice recognition was taking it raw from my mind. Stream of consciousness at this Proustian 'volume' would then require editing and interpretation, which rather defeated its purpose. My late father on the other hand, a solicitor by training, would dictate letters word perfect, first time. (His mentality and training).

Play time

A decade on I am taking it seriously.

I record notes into a digital recorder that could be podcast content for my swim coach blog, by using Dragon Speaking Naturally this can be quickly converted into text and images added.

Its called reader choice

The idea is that poolside a coach needs to have their eyes on the swimmers (rather like a driver having their eyes on the road). If I have offered some simple spoken guidelines on a set, key points and tips, these can be reviewed in situ. Notes on specific swimmers too.

We'll see

I was woken by the dog, otherwise even I wouldn't be up this early. I ought to be reading a book rather than doing this ... there are ways to ease yourself back to sleep. I tell you, my mind is going like the clappers. I should be mining my dreams right now. Much of the time I am tussling with the content of this blog, the 1200 pieces I've 'dumped' in my OU eportfolio MyStuff and a desk strewn in white papers, reports, catalogues, directories, hand outs and leaflets from Learning Technologies 2011.

Earlier (see LT2.1) I wondered about a walk around Learning Technologies in the company of a camera on a steadicam. Easier still would have been an informed walk around with audio, as a podcast, with the Floor Plan and pictures.

Next time

When am I going to offer this as a podcast? Is there something to be gained in this? Something lost?

On Verra

Meanwhile I click through 34 voice recordings labelling and deleting.

There is a period here where I deliberately record all, or most of , a swim coaching session, both notes to myself in situ, and my instructions to the swimmers. I've done this as an exercise to understand what value can be gained from 'recording everything.' That very fact that I am listening to this three weeks after the event indicates one problem. The next is 'chunking' the content into manageable pieces, something I did in part while recording (to protect the identities of people I am working with). In practice I can see that such 'chunking' should be done at the time ... rather like stop starting a dictaphone.

So I learnt something. Whether I record, verbatim, other chunks of my life is quite another matter.

You record 8 hours of material in a day, how many days is this going to take to process.

It reminds me of a story of a diarist who appeared to spend his day writing about writing his diary.

Remind you of anyone?

P.S. Renewing my relationship with Unipart a decade on by clicking through their website I decided to apply directly to their Human Resources department to see about joining them as a consultant.


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Voice recognition is yet to overcome QWERTY

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 5 May 2014, 07:00

Trying voice recognition software and expected to use it fifteen years ago I fail to see its everyday application. (Inform me otherwise, please).

A generation typing in TXT may in time stick with an keyboard that goes ABC/DEF while touch screens and icons are still an expensive novelty, limited yet again by those who create the software in a language that they can use and favour with English often the mother tongue and culturally the was screens are read, the images and colours used, of Western origin.

And within this, take one tiny Empirical-like imposition that took many years to address – all Microsoft dictionaries favoured American English.

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