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
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 the Hearing Loss Web
[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.