Every action has a consequence, and the consequence of spending hours texting or typing, can result in Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) for many people. With International RSI Awareness Day on February 28, it’s a good time to look at how technology can help mitigate RSI risk, and make life more comfortable for those who suffer from it.
RSI – will the pain ever go away?
International RSI Awareness Day is dedicated to RSI education and prevention, which speaks to the millions of people globally who suffer from RSI and musculoskeletal disorders, with one in 50 of all workers in the UK reporting an RSI condition and 5.4million working days a year lost through sick leave due to this condition. For those who suffer from RSI, it can seriously impact the quality of their work life. In fact, many RSI injuries are caused by work-related activities, such as packing boxes for hours each day, to being tethered to the PC.
In this article, we’re focusing on the type of upper body mobility problems associated with hours of PC use, a scenario that many people in the digital economy are very familiar with. In that context, RSI covers a wide range of injuries to muscles, tendons and nerves, usually affecting hands, wrists, elbows or shoulders. At its most extreme, it can cause permanent damage if not stopped at an early stage. This condition is particularly prevalent among workers who regularly use a keyboard or mouse who experience repetitive stress issues like carpal tunnel syndrome. This makes doing the things that other people take for granted impossible, like typing up a report, completing a spreadsheet or even replying to and sending an email.
Time to turn to speech recognition
One tactic that many organisations are using to prevent issues related to RSI, is to help employees reduce their reliance on the keyboard and mouse by offering them speech recognition software like Dragon from Nuance Communications. Dragon affords employees an accurate, powerful - and alternative way - of capturing their thoughts simply by using their voice. When used appropriately, speech recognition can, in theory, help mitigate RSI-type conditions and the productivity issues that can result from difficulties in typing and performing everyday computer tasks.
Speech recognition software – like Dragon - enables workers to create letters, spreadsheets, emails and search the internet using speech. Instead of manually typing, users can dictate text at up to 160 words-per-minute, making it the ideal solution for companies of all sizes looking to keep employees highly productive and pain-free. Today, Dragon is a simple to install and easy-to-use solution that makes advanced speech recognition and dictation more accessible and attainable for use in businesses, enterprises and homes around the world. It’s available for PC and Mac users, and there’s also a mobile app that brings professional-grade speech recognition to iOS and Android mobile users. It is not an exaggeration to say that Dragon has the potential to end the pain of typing once and for all, by giving wrists a rest.
Furthermore, given that we typically speak up to three times faster than we can type, not only does speech recognition offer a pain-free way of interfacing with a PC, but it can also make a dramatic improvement to an employees’ productivity at work. It’s a win-win; less pain for the user, and a more productive employee.
Thanks to its benefits, the technology even has the support of the Trades Union Congress (TUC). It acknowledges that RSI is a major problem at work, but states that it is easily avoidable and that employers should offer workers the option to use speech recognition software as an alternative to typing. The advice on the TUC website reads: “If you do a lot of typing, then make sure your employer offers you touch-typing training. Two finger typists are far more likely to get pains in the hand, wrist and forearms. An alternative is asking for a speech recognition software package.” You can see why they are keen to encourage the broader adoption of speech recognition, given that the TUC estimates that six people leave their jobs every day due to an RSI-related condition.
Living a pain free life
Rosalind Lawless is a typical RSI sufferer who has embraced the benefits offered by speech recognition technology. With the onset of Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), Rosalind was no longer able to use a keyboard and as a result lost her job within Supplies Management. Having later discovered Dragon, Rosalind realised the power of this advanced software and employed it to complete a Teacher's Certificate, NVQ Assessors Awards and a Start Your Own Business Course. Rosalind then started a new business venture - 1st Voice Solutions. Drawing from her own experiences of RSI, she designed and marketed a specialist training course to teach others with hand, arm and back difficulties to use Dragon.
Another person to benefit from Dragon, is Dee Blick. Dee is a self-employed marketing professional, founder of The Marketing Gym and author of three best-selling business books. Fifteen years ago, Dee started suffering from pain in her upper body when she was typing. Unfortunately she was battling with the debilitating pain of RSI which was becoming increasingly more painful and difficult to manage.
Using Dragon marked the start of a turning point for Dee in coping with her condition, while maintaining her successful career. Today, everything Dee writes is dictated to Dragon, which means that RSI no longer restricts her at work. Dee credits the software for keeping her in business and allowing her to continue marketing and writing. “Without the help of Dragon, I know that I could not have continued with my business, let alone become a bestselling author,” she says.
Years on from the first symptoms of RSI and nine years on from first using the software, life is very different for Dee. “I went from being absolutely desperate to being a bestselling author. I would never have been able to write any of my books without Dragon.”
From their success stories, you can draw your own conclusions as to the effectiveness of speech recognition in helping to successfully address the RSI challenge faced by many employees and employers.
Mark Geremia, Vice President and General Manager, Dragon Professional and Consumer, Nuance
Image Credit: Flickr / Daniel Gasienica