Digital dictation: a productivity boon and an opportunity for people with disabilities

Written By: Peter Abrahams
Content Copyright © 2007 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.

With the ubiquitous availability of personnel productivity tools, such as Microsoft Word, why should anyone dictate a document rather than directly type it? The following are just some of the reasons:

  • You can dictate at times and in places where typing is not easy or even possible (in a taxi or train, in a queue at the airport etc.)
  • It is faster to dictate instructions for a standard document: “Letter to Ms X of Y, copy JJ, Dear Madam, some content, followed by standard paragraphs one and three, and paragraph six with following addition, yours etc. etc.”
  • A professional typist will have been trained to use the functions of the tools to create documents in the proper house-style. Most users do not know how to use the tools to the best advantage. So the final output will be to a higher standard.
  • Better use of the time of the person dictating with the inherent cost benefits.

BigHand provides technology that makes dictation a practical solution. The technology enables dictation to be captured digitally on many devices including stand alone digital dictation machines, Blackberrys, PDAs, mobile phones and PCs, and then entered into the dictation system. The system schedules the work and transfers the files to the relevant typist. When complete, the document can be sent back to the creator for proofreading and any corrections. Finally, by integration with your document creation or file management systems, BigHand can distribute, file and print the completed document.

BigHand enables the productive creation of high quality documents in a standard office environment; it can offer further benefits to people with disabilities and their employers, for example:

  • People with dyslexia can express themselves verbally but find writing more challenging. Dictating could enable them to be much more productive.
  • People with vision impairments may be able to touch-type but cannot see the results so they have to have the document read back to them which takes additional time. Also the user cannot tell if the document is laid out so that it is pleasing and easy to read for people who can see.
  • People who cannot use their hands or arms, either permanently or temporarily because of an accident, will find digital dictation an effective solution.

Of course automated speech-to-text systems can be used to assist these users, but digital dictation provides extra benefits through the intelligence of the typist who can interpret the intentions of the person dictating by:

  • Coping with pauses, ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ and in-line corrections.
  • Completing punctuation.
  • Adding formatting and layout.
  • Responding to commands such as adding an address.

In reality a person with a disability is likely to use speech-to-text for some tasks, particularly those that are shorter or less formal and use digital dictation for the formal, legal and longer documents.

Besides BigHand being used by people with disabilities to dictate it can open up employment opportunities for people with disabilities to become typists:

  • A person with vision impairment can type from dictation and with a proper set of styles can create well laid out and structured documents.
  • A person with mobility problems can work from home as the digital dictation files can be delivered to their local machine.
  • Other disabilities may mean that a person takes longer to transcribe a piece of dictation but can complete the task. BigHand can accommodate this by scheduling less time sensitive dictation to these typists.

BigHand Digital Dictation systems provide an excellent way to improve the productivity of highly qualified and highly paid professionals. But it also provides job and employment opportunities for people with disabilities. This is of obvious benefit to the employee; but it is also of significant benefit to the employer because it shows a corporate social responsibility and also brings new and motivated talent into the firm. It provides a win-win situation for all.