Accessibility and legislation - Technological advances

Digital accessibility and speech recognition for people with disabilities

La reconnaissance vocale pour les personnes en situation de handicap


We talk to you very regularly about the emergence of technologies, applications, and concrete cases for professionals and individuals about speech recognition. As specialists in speech to text technology , we use speech recognition on a daily basis and monitor its progress very precisely. Today, we have decided to take a closer look at a related subject that is close to our hearts: digital accessibility and speech recognition for people with disabilities.

Speech technologies and disabilities

For starters, you may be wondering why digital accessibility is intimately linked to speech recognition tools. In fact, digital accessibility is presented as a set of techniques, means, which allow people with disabilities to make their lives easier and to access digital contentIn different sectors and contexts! The main goal for people with disabilities is to have the same opportunities as any other individual with regard to new technologies.

Briefly, automatic speech recognition commonly identified by the term voice recognitionis a computer technique that allows the human voice picked up by a microphone to be analysed. It then transcribes it into a machine-readable text.

Challenges of voice technologies for people with disabilities

Challenges of voice technologies for people with disabilities

The challenge of this type of technology is very important for people with disabilities as they are looking for solutions to free themselves from more constraints of everyday life. For example, surfing the web without a screen or keyboard, changing TV channels without a remote control, answering the phone without hearing a sound… Disability affects more than 1 billion people on Earth. In addition, there are many disabilities: motor, hearing, visual, vocal, cognitive… Improving accessibility is therefore very important for all these people. It is also essential for people concerned with electronics or the elderly. Indeed, seniors can face constraints due to the decrease of some of their capacities but also difficulties in learning and mastering the use of new technologies. The field of action of voice recognition is therefore very broad and crucial!

Digital accessibility and private players

Digital accessibility and private players

If we look at France today’s situation in regards to digital technology, we note for example that websites are neither completely inaccessible nor completely accessible. In fact, 5 to 10% of the sites would be really accessible that is to say, without a dot that blocks for a user who uses voice synthesis. Text-to-speech is a synthetic voice that reads what is happening on the screen and allows interaction. It is itself based on speech recognition.

Theoretically, websites in the public sphere in France are obliged to be made accessible under Law No. 2005-102 of 11 February 2005 for equal rights and opportunities. However, no real system of sanctions has been put in place! With the latest decree, private companies have until September 2020 to comply with the standards. It is high time to extend this digital accessibility to many services. Fortunately, more and more technological actors are working in this direction!

Speech recognition tools at the service of people with disabilities

Now, we are going to make an inventory of the tools made available to people with disabilities. Please note that in most cases these tools work with voice recognition! We have selected several tools that show how speech recognition helps different profiles of people with disabilities.

Voice Access

Voice Access

The first tool is an application called “Voice Access”. It is a voice assistant for people with a smartphone running under Android. This solution is aimed at people suffering from paralysis, trembling, disorders that require a good grip on a mobile phone. Currently, Voice Access responds to voice commands for three mobile uses. To activate it is very simple, you have to go to the smartphone’s parameters, section “accessibility” and select Voice Access. A tutorial will show you how to manipulate Voice Access. Voice Access is available for free on Google Play.

First, the tool covers the basics of navigating from any screen. For example the keys/commands “back”, “back to main menu” All existing commands for Voice Access are visible directly in the settings.

In addition, with the application, it is possible for the person with a disability to interact face to face with the screen. In particular by asking to “click on next”, to scroll up and down the site and the texts of the articles read. Finally, a last important use: the dictation of text. As with the iOS wizards, Voice Access allows you to dictate a message directly by voice. This not only makes it easier for users to write but also to send messages. Especially for people with a disability! We can easily imagine people with Parkinson’s disease using speech recognition to combat their disability.

Voice Assistant from Google

Voice Assistant from Google

The second tool and not the least important since it was developed by the giant Google! Google Assistant presents itself as an application in favour of disability. Voice Assistant allows you to fully control your phone “just” by using your voice! This is an excellent approach for people who have had a stroke, are tetraplegic, suffer from Parkinson’s disease… But also for people who have their hands caught in their daily tasks!

The way Google Assistant works is simple: the application adds small numbers on all the areas of the screen that can be activated. The icons, buttons, links, etc.. For example, to click on them, just say “Press 15″. Furthermore, when the user wants to write text, he asks the application to write directly in his place! Not only does everything work by voice, but he can also make live replacements. It’s simple and it works. Voice Assistant is available for free on all Android smartphones.

A focus on live voice recognition

We are launching a new tool in 2020 which we will tell you more about very soon our technology: Authôt Live! It was at the VoiceTech Paris show in November 2019 that we presented our new product, in preview. The official launch is now close and should further strengthen the link between speech recognition and disability! Indeed, Authôt Live is THE new solution to transcribe and translate live! For example, for conferences, courses, videos…

There is almost no more need to use interpreters, whatever your profile and language of use. This really heralds a great future for people with disabilities. It is therefore no coincidence that, with such challenges surrounding speech recognition, software and tools adapted for each type of disability are multiplying. Indeed, some tools will be more for hearing impairments, others for motor impairments etc.

Finally, speech recognition is generally used for disabilities for better access to information, better professional integration… But not only. Above all, it is a big step and an improvement in daily use for people with certain constraints. Especially in the face of the evolution and major use of new technologies today. Smartphones, computers and tablets are now a must for everyone. All the more so in order to break the loneliness and difficulties linked to a handicap situation.

Voice recognition is still in its infancy to promote digital accessibility and the integration of people with disabilities in an increasingly technological world! If you would like to learn more about the use of speech recognition, please contact us.

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