Softnet Systems, Inc. Speech Recognition Specialists

Hints for Assisting Others

How to Assist Others (Who Need Physical Assistance)

I'm Able-Bodied and Willing to Help Someone Else Begin to Use Speech Recognition Software

I like your spirit! And even if you think you are a computer dunce, you know enough to have gotten to this web page. That proves you'll be able to help. Help can come in a variety of forms in special cases. You may choose to do-it-yourself or you may get assistance from professionals. But you've never done this before and some guidance would be helpful.

  • Identify the goals so that others know what may be expected
    • What is the person going to do with the computer?
      • e-mail
      • Internet access
      • basic accounting (tracking personal finances)
      • creative writing
      • pursue a hobby
    • What is the overall environment for using the computer?
      • Is it a fixed location?
      • Noisy or quiet?
      • Is a laptop or Tablet-PC needed so it can be easily transported (such as to classes or to/from work)?
  • Identify what you or others around this person may be able to do. Are you comfortable buying computers? Do you have familiarity with computer audio? Someone will likely need to set up a computer, handle some basic computer cabling, install software, and provide assistance while the end-user is learning the software.
  • Identify the resources available. If a computer exists, what are its basic specifications (CPU, RAM, Operating System, and audio system are of most interest).
  • Consider learning the software yourself
    • If you learn to use it, you'll be better prepared to help someone else
    • Try to use the software hands-free, if only for a few hours, if the person you intend to assist can't use the keyboard. If you can't resist using the keyboard, then put on mittens, handcuff yourself, tie your hands behind your office chair (OK, that's a bit extreme), or put your keyboard in a place difficult to reach in order to realize the range of things a person must learn just to do basic computer function

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Upgrades, Add-ons, Ongoing Usage

You may be working with someone who wants a better speech recognition experience. They may be experiencing problems, frustrations, and you are willing to help. But you've never used speech recognition software so are asking for help. You might be a computer guru, a father-in-law, a friend who barely knows computers. What you know is that you have the time and energy to help someone else.

Gather Information

Pause and think before acting.

  • Is the end-user happy with what they have? In other words, is this something they want or something you want for them. If they are happy with what they have, think again before taking it away or changing it.
  • Identify what they are using today. Computer specifications, the software they are using, the prior version of NaturallySpeaking, etc. Put this down in writing so it can be e-mailed to others.
    • A software upgrade may not work well if a computer is outdated relative to the upgrade
    • Upgrading one piece of software may make other software obsolete.
  • Identify the problems to be solved
    • Better performance?
    • More/different applications?
    • Just getting it to work properly?

Once the above is done, you may choose to ask about how to proceed. Using Internet forums is one way to ask, if you document the above information you'll likely get free opinions from qualified persons. Or, go to a Nuance-certified Speech Solutions specialist or perhaps a certified assitive technology specialist for assistance.

Don't expect webmasters, corporate IT personnel, experienced computer programmers, etc. to be of much assistance. I respect these people but when dealing with speech recognition software they are normally out of their areas of expertise.

Be Cautious... sometimes

If the current system is working, make sure it is backed up before doing anything else.

If you are able to obtain a new system and keep the old system intact, and your budget isn't very limited, you may be able to proceed more rapidly as the downside risk is limited.

Often this is the best approach if you can afford $1000 or so for a new computer for this person, and particularly if the computer system is 3 or more years old. Remember that software may cost more than the computer system itself.

If funds are more limited, then look at some basic upgrade possibilities:

  • RAM Upgrades -- Adding RAM often helps performance
  • Dragon NaturallySpeaking Software upgrades -- make sure that the computer can handle the newer software. That includes upgrades to the new Dragon Professional Individual (September 2015)
  • Alternate microphones -- assist in the selection and acquisition of a different, more usable microphone
  • Customization -- particularly if the person already has NaturallySpeaking Professional, automating some of what they do is worthwhile. You'll know in a couple of hours of trying to do this whether it is something that you are willing and able to do. In my experience some people are dramatically better at doing this than others. This works best if the user can express what they do most often.

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