VoiceWriting Offers Captioning Alternative

VoiceWriting Offers Captioning Alternative

My wife and I recently agreed to teach a computer class for hard of hearing and late deafened people. Our budget is essentially zero, so hiring a CART writer was out of the question. After some sighing and head scratching, I remembered a voice recognition program I had experimented with a year or so ago. I remembered that, with minimal training, it did a great job of recognizing my voice. The only problem with it was that it was too slow running on my old laptop. But I wondered how it would do on my relatively new, 1GHz machine.

So I dug out the disk and installed it on my new machine. I spent an hour or so training the program to understand how I say words, and then I pretended to talk about computers. The software was nearly 100% accurate, and it had no problem keeping up with me. There is sometimes a slight lag of half a sentence or so, while it crunches on the possible meanings, but it comes up with the right one almost all the time! I’ve been practicing off and on since then, and it’s now nearly perfect.

In the middle of all this we attended a CIAI meeting at which a CART writer we’ve known for several years was presenting on using voice recognition software to do captioning. Of course we were very interested. Renee Cohen gave a wonderful demonstration on the capabilities of voice-recognition as a captioning tool. She had come to much the same conclusion that I had regarding the potential of voice-recognition to accurately transcribe the speech of a particular person.

The audience, of course, was flabbergasted at the accuracy and speed with which Renee could dictate into her voice recognition software. They were even more amazed, as was I, when she covered her mouth with a “steno mask” and continued to dictate. The words continued to appear on the screen, but there was virtually no sound reaching me several rows back in the room. The steno mask effectively muffled her voice while still allowing the software to accurately interpret words.

I attended another meeting shortly thereafter at which Renee was presenting the concept of voice writing to local school officials. Her intent was to familiarize them with this technology, with an eye towards replacing CART writing with voice writing in the schools. It seems to me to be a very doable concept.

So why is voice writing better than CART writing? I don’t believe that it’s necessarily more accurate or faster. And excellent CART writer is probably just as good or better than an excellent voice writer. The differences is that a voice writer can be trained in a relatively short time at a relatively low cost, while training a CART writer requires a long time and high cost.

And the news gets even better. Renee is now offering a series of classes intended to train people to become commercial voicewriters. Her classes are in the San Diego area, but she may know of other classes elsewhere in the country. If you or someone you know is interested in learning how to provide this much needed service, please contact Renee for additional information. Please see the eCaptions listing in theHearing Loss Web Resources Directory.

[Update May 2, 2010 – I just learned that Renee is teaching an online voicewriting class! Sounds like a great way to learn this very worthwhile and potentially lucrative skill.