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Well that ended my study phase

I guess it’s about time that I updated the site and clarified what’s been going on with me and around me.

The work I was doing for that University course never got completed and got recorded as a Fail. I went through several weeks of on-again off-again pain and the Tramadol taken with the Lyrica blew my concentration out the window. At times the sedation was affecting me so much that I would fall asleep every 30 minutes or so and if I was reading I’d forget what was the last sentence that I had read.

Even though I was given extra time, by July I had told the school and Open Universities that it simply wasn’t working out and to take me off their lists.

Since then I’ve focused on just getting through the day and doing as little as possible that might upset my arms and caused me to hit the painkillers again. Every now and then I find that I’ve been unsuccessful, the pain comes, I take the painkillers, I lose a day in a haze.

I’m still a little active, I still do chores around the house, at least the chores that I can do without causing the problems to exacerbate. At present I’m volunteering each weekend at the local hospital where I act as a patient guide providing information and physical guidance to help visitors get around the hospital. It is a lot of fun and the physical activity, I walk miles during a shift, it is very good for me and I feel better inside and out for doing the work.

So back to this site. I intend to keep it going.  It will cover the kinds of things that I’m doing or things I might want to add a comment about or events and activities that I get involved in.It will expand to cover other aspects of my life such as my Model Railway hobbies.

I hope I am able to keep a regular posting schedule but that depends on too many factors for me to say it’s going to happen like that.

I thank you for hanging around while all of this circus was taking place in my life and I hope in the future I can find more interesting things to share with you.

The Healing Power of Sleep

Sleep, new research reveals, is a master regulator of health. A sleep deficit or disruption can create wide-ranging havoc, compromising our immune system, causing inflammation, and damaging our genes. Losing just an hour of sleep a night increases risk of cancer, heart attack, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

Lack of sleep can also lead to memory loss, negatively affect people’s reflexes and decision-making skills, cause hearing loss and psychiatric disease, and impede sexual function.

And it’s not just people who suffer from sleep disorders like insomnia and sleep apnea who have to worry, says James Maas, PhD, a recently retired Cornell scientist and one of the world’s foremost sleep researchers. He says at least seven out of 10 Americans aren’t getting enough sleep and they’re at risk for serious health problems, as well.

“People devalue sleep and are completely unaware of what happens to them when they have a deficit,” Maas says. “As a society we are so habituated to low levels of sleep that most of us don’t know what it feels like to be fully alert and awake.”
Read the full article: The Healing Power of Sleep

Often getting to bed well after midnight, 1AM, 2AM even 3AM and now-and-then 4AM I would have to be a prime candidate for sleep deprivation. Combine that with usually waking around 4 to water the horse and see my wife off when she drives my son to work. Then I’m usually up before 7:30 to get our daughter up and running for School. That adds up to a whole lot of missed sleep. Working into the late hours on Research and Assignments which add to the already high stress levels and it may not be such a surprise that my body has crashed.

A Small Contribution for Nonexpert Speech Recognition Users

Sorry that I have not been posting any updates. I have been having a horrible time due to a flare-up of my RSI Injury and the subsequent medication and adjustment. At present I’m on indeterminate leave from my University studies and I just don’t know when I will be able to continue them. The combination of pain and sedation really doesn’t give me much chance of study and research.

I have just found a very interesting post in the Forums of SpeechComputing.com

Let me share the full post from this contributor as he has quite a story to tell which in many respects is similar to my situation and where I’m headed…

A Small Contribution for Nonexpert Speech Recognition Users

via A Small Contribution for Nonexpert Speech Recognition Users | Speech Computing73384.

Below you will find my personal survival guide for navigating personal computers through speech recognition. I have compiled it over years as some sort of personal blog, taking note of useful software and tricks as they came along.

I am posting it in the hope that other folks who are suddenly forced to abandon using keyboard and mouse will realize that there is hope, and so others may benefit from little tricks that took me forever to figure out. A lot of these are available elsewhere online, but I thought it might be useful to collect them together so that they are easily available for new or less experienced users. Some of these I came up myself, although I would not be surprised this others before me have also documented them.

Wherever possible I have tried to link to the original source of the helpful material. I am grateful to the speech recognition user community for their active and useful presence online. The various topics are presented in order of importance in my opinion. I will not be able to maintain and update this regularly, but I do plan to continue collecting interesting hints and tips, and if these additions reach critical mass I will try my best to repost.

My personal story is that as a result of round-the-clock coding since a very young age I am no longer able to use my hands to control a keyboard, mouse, iPhone/iPad, etc. So, I am forced to rely on speech recognition exclusively. The positive message that I would like to convey is that if you invest in conquering the admittedly very steep learning curve, you will be able to do the vast majority of the things that you need on a desktop, and even be faster at some of them. A top-of-the-line machine with all the necessary software should cost you less than $3000 and if your employer will not cover this cost you might be able to get financial assistance elsewhere.

I have no commercial interests of any kind in any of the programs or suggestions mentioned below.

You will note that some of the useful tricks below rely on free third-party software. To the extent that you can, please donate to the authors of the software.

Good luck to everyone!

https://docs.google.com/document/d/11igSgg23TKOunwB7MilWdyUmazJlrbgT6cdq9JwjS2s/pub385

Update: I did ask the author for permission to post this here and his response was;

that’s no problem at all. I hope you find it helpful, and good luck.
Submitted by DragonSpeechRookie on Tue, 03/19/2013 – 02:27.

The Spoon Theory … support for those with invisible illness or chronic illness

The Spoon Theory written by Christine Miserandino …support for those with invisible illness or chronic illness.

“I explained that the difference in being sick and being healthy is having to make choices or to consciously think about things when the rest of the world doesn’t have to. The healthy have the luxury of a life without choices, a gift most people take for granted.

Most people start the day with unlimited amount of possibilities, and energy to do whatever they desire, especially young people. For the most part, they do not need to worry about the effects of their actions. So for my explanation, I used spoons to convey this point. I wanted something for her to actually hold, for me to then take away, since most people who get sick feel a “loss” of a life they once knew. If I was in control of taking away the spoons, then she would know what it feels like to have someone or something else, in this case Lupus, being in control.”

The Spoon Theory” describes what it is like to live each day making choices on what you can and can’t do with your day that the “normal” people just don’t think another thing about. Some days I have to make choices about ‘Do I brush my hair or not’ or a few times it has even been as base and elemental as, ‘what will it cost me in pain if I wipe my bum’.
I have had those days and there isn’t any joy there but you just prioritise on the things you have to do and other things get left by the wayside, family, chores, studies. Doesn’t matter. If they’re going to bring you more hurt then you drop them hoping that next day you might actually be able to get things done, that you will “have more spoons”.

it is all done hands-free

“it is all done hands-free with Dragon”

I do most of my programming these days in C# and it is all done hands-free with Dragon with some added voice commands (scripts) for automation purposes.

Basically using Visual Studio and even DNS Premium you can quite happily program completely hands-free in either C# or Visual Basic .net simply by using the already available tools that come with the Premium version.

I want to be able to use my Dragon tools to allow me to build the coding behind web sites, HTML and JavaScript for example. I am very happy to hear this person say that it is possible, it was a task that was worrying me if I had to do it by hand that would be a course I would have to avoid.

The text comes from a thread at KnowBrainer.com, a Speech Recognition provider and support base.

Natlink – what is it to Dragon NaturallySpeaking?

So the question I had was just what is this Natlink? I have installed it and it seems to work well but just what is it?

I found this amongst the messages on SpeechComputing.com:

NatLink is an platform built on top of DNS that allows writing extremely powerful voice commands (more powerful than what you can do with Advanced Scripting) by writing entire Python programs. Pretty much unusable directly unless you’re a programmer.

Building on top of NatLink are:

Vocola 2: implements a very simple and concise language for writing voice commands that handles 95% of the commands you might want.

Unimacro: a series of ready to use powerful grammars for things like switching tasks, opening folders, and editing lines.

Dragonfly: a higher level, more object-oriented interface for NatLink. Somewhat usable by nonprogrammers using cut-and-paste programming.

Both Vocola and dragonfly can be used with Windows speech recognition as well. There is a somewhat dated comparison between Vocola 2 and Unimacro at

http://qh.antenna.nl/unimacro/features/unimacroand…

that you may find useful. Note that you can call Unimacro actions from Vocola 2 if you have both installed.

via Natlink, Python, etc. please outline the features of these addons-they sound useful | Speech Computing.

The Dragon gets new teeth

An update to my problems trying to get Dragon NaturallySpeaking to navigate the Internet through the Firefox browser. Earlier this week there was an update to a tool called NatLink / Unimacro which you can find at:

  1. Natlink (old pages)
  2. Unimacro & Natlink (new pages)

This tool does many things using scripts that plugs straight into Dragon NaturallySpeaking but the one that is really helping me at the moment makes the Firefox add-on that I had talked about before, Mouseless Browsing work under the Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 which is what I’m running. Until this latest update of NatLink / Unimacro, Mouseless Browsing would not respond to voice commands, it would only operate from the number pad of my keyboard. Now when I have Dragon NaturallySpeaking running and Firefox running with Mouseless Browsing turned on. Then I give the voice command to Dragon NaturallySpeaking, “Numbers on” and the numbers appear alongside every link. Then I just tell Dragon NaturallySpeaking to ‘Press 6’ or else ‘Press 107’ and that link will be slected and activated.

mouseless-browsingIf you click on my screen grab (see alongside) it shows you how these programs put numbers onto the screen for every link, the goal of course is to minimise use of the mouse. Some things on the browser still have to be “mouse’d” but nowhere near the same amount had I not installed those tools.

My next trick is trying to get Zotero to work responding to Dragon NaturallySpeaking within Microsoft Word. All I’m getting for my effort is frustration up to DEFCON 2.

Accessible Games Websites

7-128 Software Simply Entertainment games7-128 Software has just published the winners of their Top Web Sites for Gamers who are Blind, Motion-impaired, or Deaf – 2012 competitions. They surveyed over 100 Web sites relevant to the accessible gaming community. Each entry notes what FREE and commercial games are offered, what game reviews, information and help are offered, what forums, blogs, and other community features are offered, how current that content is, and how popular that Web site is. The Web sites are ranked accordingly so you can quickly find the best of the best. This information is totally FREE. No registration is required. You can find it at http://www.7128.com/top25/topsiteslists.html

via Accessible Games Websites.

Not a good day :(

Facebook asks for a Status update saying, “How’s it going Ian?”
Well if you must ask its all going to garbage the moment. Seems that lugging my suitcase around on Saturday after my arrival back from the Linux Conference in Canberra has really upset my arms to the point I’m going to see the quack this afternoon to try and find some sort of relief other than painkillers that make me sleep or take my brain away for a holiday.
I’m having trouble doing the lightest of keyboard tasks and so relying on Dragon to type for me and may be even do some navigation of the browser.

I have 1000 word essay due on Friday and still have not been able to get the system working for me to get it started, to even find the rest of the research that I want to do on it, because when the pain comes my brain goes away. I’m already into a week’s extension that needs this to go away before I can start to concentrate and do some research, some study, some writing, hell even do some work, that would have been nice!

Sorry for not posting much but I’m just not up to it at this time.

New blog on the future of speech applications | Speech Computing

New blog on the future of speech applications | Speech Computing.

New Blog on the Future of Speech Applications

AVIOS announces a new blog devoted to the future of applications using speech technologies.

The Advanced Voice Input Output Society (AVIOS) announces a new blog devoted to the future of applications using speech technologies. Each week a new article will be written and posted by a speech technology expert. The public is invited to submit questions, comments, observations, and additional predictions on each weekly topic. The blog can be viewed by setting your browser to http://www.avios.org.

What will the world of speech technology be in the next five years? Weekly articles will include:

· Accessing In-depth information by voice: City Companion by Deborah Dahl

· Multimodal User Interfaces by Matt Yuschik, CitiBank CTO R&D

· Speech-enabled owner’s manual for the car by Tom Schalk

· Language learning by Bill Scholz, President, AVIOS

· “Do-it-yourself” apps by James A. Larson, Co-Program Chair, SpeechTEK

· Stress detection using speech analysis by Nava A. Shaked, CEO, BBT Ltd.

· Speech analytical tools by Loren Wilde, CTO, Wilder Communications, Inc.

· The dream of a personal assistant by Roberto Pieracine, Director and CEO, The International Computer Science Institute (ICSI)

· The future of spoken language interaction with computers by Alexander Rudnicky, Carnegie Mellon University

· Making speech-based interaction truly natural by Sara H. Basson, Worldwide Program Director – Services Innovation Lab IBM – TJ Watson Research Center

Visit the blog each week to read about and participate in discussions about future applications of speech technology.

The Applied Voice Input Output Society (AVIOS) is a not-for-profit private foundation founded in 1981. AVIOS provides a forum for promoting practical applications of advanced speech technology, such as speech recognition, text-to-speech synthesis, and speaker authentication, along with supporting technologies such as natural language interpretation and knowledge representation.

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