"If you are a quadriplegic, like you say you are, how in the heck do you type?" Ah… the million-dollar question. Given that I am in fact completely paralyzed, it would seem strange how I keep popping out random thoughts on my blog at a fairly decent rate. Until somewhat recently, quadriplegics that wanted to use a computer were given a pencil. A pencil? You ask? That’s right, a pencil stuck between your teeth will enable you to press the keys on the keyboard. Like you don’t lose enough dignity just becoming paralyzed, now you get to type slower than my 2 1/2-year-old niece.
Fortunately for me (sort of), I was injured during a decent era of technology. While voice-recognition is something that has been worked on for years, it has finally reached a point where it has become a viable option for dictation. Also lucky for me, I had a great Assistive Technology therapist in the hospital that was able to get me a copy of the best voice-recognition software out there. Voice-recognition… sounds like the perfect remedy, right? Well, sort of…
Is this technology leaps and bounds above the pencil option? Absolutely. Does it afford you all the luxuries offered by your hands on a keyboard and mouse that are often taken for granted? Not so much. Actually, not even close. Given the fact that I graduated college with a degree in engineering and a minor in computer programming, computers were my forte. I could do anything and everything possible with a keyboard and mouse. If there was a problem with the computer, I could find the most painless solution. With this software, it’s quite a different case now.
You see, when relying on a machine to recognize your voice, misunderstandings are inevitable and unavoidable. For example: If I were to be writing an e-mail and would like to say "if you," the computer may think I said a number of different phrases (a few, of you, a view, etc.). Mistakes like these will occur countless times in any given paragraph, leaving you to the task of multiple time-consuming corrections. Sometimes, you will find yourself having to correct over two thirds of what you have just entered.
Then you have the mouse; not quite the same helpful rodent you are used to, that’s for sure. I guarantee most people never even think twice about how the mouse makes their lives SO much simpler. I have found a greater respect for the little animal as of late. Without the ability to use an actual mouse, my little arrow must now be controlled by voice commands as well. Cumbersome, to say the least. In order for me to get the mouse into the desired position, I have to go through an extensive series of mouse grids. It all starts by saying "mouse grid," which displays a tic-tac-toe-type grid on the screen containing the numbers one through nine like a telephone dial. Choosing a number consolidates the grid inside that number’s space. Choosing a number inside that grid localizes the grid that much more and so on. For example, if I were wanted to click on the Internet Explorer icon, I would have to say "mouse-4-6-7-3-2-2… click." Get the picture? And let’s not even get into punctuation (comma), and how I have to say each word for them to show up (period).
Probably the best illustration of the curse of digital recognition is the fact that computers, by nature, always look for the quickest solution. This is most apparent when writing e-mails. Since I use Hotmail as my e-mail provider, I’ve learned to choose my words and phrases quite wisely, for this reason. Say I was writing an e-mail to a long-lost best friend, filling him in on the accident. I could be an hour and a half into the letter (which would probably have taken me 15 minutes with my fingers, mind you), and I happen to say the word "out," or perhaps "sign." The computer will think I was telling it to sign out, and obeys that order, thus making me lose over an hour’s worth of work just like that. If that doesn’t make your blood boil, then I don’t know what will. I just spent over an hour writing a letter, just to have it erased, forcing me to start all over. Hope I remember what I had said.
But I must admit, given all of the above named pitfalls, this software is far better than nothing. Prior to getting this software, my days were filled with reruns on MTV. Don’t ask me how I had forgotten about ESPN while in the hospital, but I had. That overlooked, I was stuck in front of MTV’s full seasons of Newlyweds and The Inferno EVERY SINGLE DAY. They should use that crap in torture chambers to extract confessions, I swear. But even after rediscovering ESPN, I quickly became disenchanted with the channel due to its extensive coverage of the World Series of Poker. This computer became my saving grace, without a doubt. Now instead of enduring the nightmare that is Jessica Simpson, I get to annoy the masses with my countless idiosyncratic thoughts on this blog. Sucks for you guys!!!