Nuance Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 is a great tool for improving productivity in the office, but it can also help people with accessibility and disability problems handle many computer-related tasks that might be beyond them using a keyboard and mouse.
The software can handle much more than dictation and can be used to control most of the best-known PC office tools, such as Microsoft Office, the leading web browsers and popular email editors. It even gives access to social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. Many of the functions that traditionally require clicking on icons or selecting from menus, can be achieved through simple voice commands.
Perhaps the most common condition to be helped by speech recognition is Repetitive Strain Injury. This condition, which can vary in severity from tingling in the fingers and wrists up to severe pain and the need for surgery, can be provoked by all kinds of repetitive actions, including sport, manufacturing work and even playing music, but for the majority of office workers, the risk is overuse of keyboards and mice.
Recent statistics from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy quote the costs to UK employers at around £300 million per year in 2006, with an estimated 3.5 million days lost. The total number of people reporting RSI problems rose from 374,000 in 2005/6 to 426,000 in 2006/7. Of these cases, 86,000 were new in 2005/6, with an increase to 115,000 in 2006/7.
The amount of interaction needed with keyboard and mouse can be greatly reduced by using speech recognition. Although most Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 customers still use a combination of speech and manual input for the best productivity, the amount of typed text entry, in particular, can be reduced by well over 90 percent. In the process, the speed of text input can easily be doubled and corrections needed for typos and misspellings also drop very noticeably.
Disorders like dyslexia can also be helped by using Nuance Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13. You don't have to be able to spell correctly, as you do when typing into an application such as Word. As long as the program can understand the words you speak, they will be spelt correctly when they appear on the page.
The only exception to this is homonyms, words like 'there', 'their' and 'they're', which sound the same but have variant spellings. Even here, Dragon can often select the correct spelling from the context of the sentence in which the words are used. Dyslexic office workers are likely to find the standard of their office documents improves dramatically when using speech recognition.
Dyspraxic employees may also be helped by Dragon, as long as the nature of the disorder doesn't affect speech abilities. Being able to use a PC without the essential coordination needed for keyboard and mouse use can make a big difference to the tasks an office employee can carry out and the extra abilities it provides can reduce stress levels.
With Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 you don't have to put on and adjust a headset, either, as you can speak directly into the built-in microphones of many supported laptops. Once the word processor is opened and Dragon is running, 'speaking to the screen' is all that's needed to produce prose content.
More severe disabilities can also be helped by using speech recognition. Anybody with arm or hand disabilities, which make typing and/or mouse movement difficult can benefit from the same kind of direct text input, both for dictation and for controlling Windows and the most common applications that run on that platform.
How to use Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13
To give you an idea of how easy it is to use Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 to assist with general office tasks, here's all you would have to say to send an email, using Microsoft Outlook. This assumes you have already configured Outlook with a working email account and have your contacts' details in the Outlook address book:
'Open Microsoft Outlook' – opens Outlook
'Write email about meeting next Tuesday at 9am' – opens a new email window, enters 'meeting next Tuesday at 9am' into the subject field and places the cursor in the To field.
'John Smith' – looks up the name in Outlook contacts and lists those available as a dropdown list. If the contact you want is at the top of the list, say 'Click return', otherwise say 'Move down' until the correct contact is highlighted and then say 'Click return'.
'Body field' – moves the cursor to the email body text field
You can now dictate the body of the message, as if you were speaking to Word or another supported word processor and make any corrections you need in the normal way. When you're satisfied with the content of the email, say:
'Send this' – the freshly composed email is sent.
You can also use online email services such as Gmail or Yahoo! mail, though you first have to navigate through your web browser to the appropriate web page and log in.
All this can be done using Nuance Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 Premium, but if you have the Professional version you can further simplify voice use of Windows and its applications by creating your own custom commands. For example, you could create a command which would open a browser, search for Gmail and open your Gmail account, and assign it to a voice command like 'Open Gmail'.
As well as guarding against possible injury from typing, or helping disabled office workers to be able to carry out text-based tasks, Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 Premium can increase typing speeds up to 150 words per minute, which is a lot faster than even good touch typists. For the average office worker it can be five times what they can achieve with two or three fingers.
For the employee, Nuance Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 can prevent injury at work and improve what they can get done in a day. For the employer, it can prevent costly personal injury claims, increase productivity and increase the pool of available text creation personnel to include disabled employees.