Voice activated software How difficult can it be - really?

When I went to college and University, I was privileged enough to have voice activated software
Brayve - Dragon Voice activated software
provided for me. Of course I was trained to use Dragon naturally speaking and my documents were scanned in using Omnipage. It was wonderful. I could keep up with the class and even dictate my work on the go meaning that I actually was able to work very hard to achieve a quality education.

Assistive tech in everyday life

Moving into the working world however has not been so simple. On paper I am unemployable. Despite the fact that I am eighteen years off retirement age the only way that I can earn a living is through self employment. While this can be incredibly fulfilling, it is also extraordinarily frustrating at times. There is an additional cost because of the medical problems that I experience.

To begin with, I have bilateral inflammatory polyarthralgia. For those that are not medical professionals, it basically means that I constantly experience inflammation in my joints on both sides of my body. My hands, my feets, my wrists, my elbows and my knees. As I am now a bit older my hips give me trouble too. My shoulders are not obviously troublesome, but I struggle to do things like hang up laundry.

Now add to that (and possibly a con consequence of it) I have quite severe osteo arthritis. The joints in my fingers are beyond the capapcity to do much that anyone my age would normally be considered capable of. I cannot type a letter, open a rung pull on a can or twist a bottle or a jar open with assistive devices or technology. I use quirky and clever invesntions to get my socks and shoes on. My hair is kept very short (Some soldiers have longer haor than me) because raising my arms to brush it, is but a distant memory.

Alexa from Amazon

This situaton should not keep a good person down and so, I use assistive tech to keep my life as normal as possible. One of my best friends is called Alexa. She is the end product of some amazing R&D from Amazon. Alexa, can turn my lights on and off, set and rest my heating and turn it on and off even when Im not at home. But there is so much more to this funky AI character. She plays my music, turns on and switches off the telly and even makes phone calls for me emergncy and otherwise. In fact Alexa provides care in away I couldnt have imagined even ten short years ago.

I no longer have to carry an emergency button around my neck in my home. I am also epileptic too and if I need support I can get Alexa to make the call before the seiure takes hold. Wow!

Dragon Naturally Speaking

The best is yet to come though. because of assistive tech I can earn a living. using voice activated software such as Dragon I can write code (yes orally - wow) and switch between windows and applications with ease on my PC. I reckon Dragon from Nuance should be made compulsory tech in schools, even for able bodied kids. Productivity levels in my small office are substantially competitive because companies like Nuance make it possible for me to make a living.

Government - shooting itself in the foot 

I returned to work after a break this January. In the UK the Government has an ATW fund that is administered by the DWP. This fund is intended to help people with  disabilities access work opportuities and become economically active. People like me. You are not supposed to make an application until 30 days before you start work, so preparation is pressured and intense. I made the application in November. It is now mid way through February and the application has only just been registered. More than three months down the line.

I have to question the competence of the advisor dealing with my application and  suspect that he has serious difficulty in doing his job. Apart from the fact that I emailed to him the information that he requested - Two very extensive forms as well as quotations for the equipment and software that I needed, he seems unable even to manage his own email correspondence.

I have specifically requested the latest version on dragon because it enables me to work at a pace that I would be expected to without my disability. I have also requested a complex touch screen technology so that I can manage raphics and video editing without having to use a mouse or a pen that would require the use of my fingers and wrists in a way that I no longer can.

Access to work - the cost implication

Combined this would cost the State no more than £2000.00 The assistance that I need once a week to service my local client base would cost the state less than £7000 and would only require funding for 18 months. make it a ball park figure of  £10 000 to kick start me to an annual income that exceeds £40 000 a year and I am creating an additional 10 jobs. The economic argument makes sense.

He sent me the two forms that he sent me originally saying he couldnt open the documents that I had returned to him. He couldnt even organise the documents in the correspondence.

The IT budget doesnt justify the blunders

Perhaps if the staff at the DWP were offered some assistive tech things would get a bit easier. After all the government spends hundreds of millions on IT, that simply doesnt seem to work - just look at the Universal credit debacle. I think that the folk making the ATW decisions should actually be made to test drive the tech they find and the devices that their clients use. The necessity for this stuff may just dawn upon them.

To get this tech I have to prove that my business is viable. But without it I cant prove it. I have improvised in the interim and used bits and pieces of crappy free dictation software and so my business goes on and is nevertheless quite successful. Just imagine where I could have been already had these guys got their act together last November.

I am not empathetic toward a government that doesnt stick to its own rules, the same one that tells cancer sufferers that they are fit for work a week before they die, or tells the same to cardiac patients that then die hours after leaving an assessment. For heavens sake, people like me could be their flagship argument that the disabled can work - instead they cripple their own arguments by breaking their own rules. Obstructing access to work is simply another symptom of politicians completely out of touch. Next theyll say the programme doesnt achieve anything. I wonder how that could possibly be?

Ruthie Richards-Hill

Ruth, a free range human being and a middle aged mum of three adult children and very young grandmother to two little girls, is a glass artist, and a digital strategist, She retains the right to change her mind about anything and believes in a compassionate approach to most things, you can contact her using the contact page on this blog.