Technology: Keep It Simple Sweetie

In Columns, Features, My Life: Straight Up with a Twist by Tashauna Swanson

Audacity Magazine Impossible

Tashauna Swanson

I will refrain from saying technology has traveled light years since then because while certain new inventions seem amazing, there will always be a fair number of glitches to fix. The excitement I felt while anticipating my first voice dictation software was immense.

My hopes were set high; I thought for sure this software would speed up my writing so much, pages and pages of writing would pour out of me. I assumed I would put out at least fifty words a minute as opposed to the measly average of fifteen or twenty I pecked out at the time.

Upon receiving the software package, I remember the install process taking quite awhile, and the positioning of the microphone being rather tricky because the stand it was on needed to be clamped to my desk. It was a long, cumbersome, boom microphone stand that swiveled back and forth. When these things were complete, I was ready to go!

First of all, the software needed to be trained to understand my voice and pronunciations. I went through the set up wizard while reading various passages of text aloud. Everything seems to go well until I began using the program.

I understood the more I worked with it, the better it would understand me. I tried for weeks to train it, but it never seemed to get much better. In the end, I would have to repeat myself multiple times before anything was typed out correctly. It was so frustrating!

Technology Makes Me Go %#%!

I was often heard by my parents muttering expletives at my computer while trying to write in my room. The worst part of it was, it somehow made my Microsoft Word program unusable. Even doing a reinstall could not fix the problem and this forced me to purchase another word processing program.

After trying to use it in college, I threw in the proverbial towel. By the time I had reached college, I had enough typing experience anyway. My typing speed had increased over the years to about an average of forty-five words per minute (thanks to chatting and instant messaging).

The way I type is definitely unique though. I hold a pencil in my right hand, with the eraser end down and type with the end of the pencil. Usually, I don’t even need to look at the keys.

Sometimes, equipment that is meant to help us actually hinders us and in the end, we can find a much cheaper solution. My parents and I have figured this out on multiple occasions. It is unfortunate that anything deemed medically necessary or as assistive technology is so costly.

Costly Technology

For instance, I am not able to pick up a regular phone receiver easily or quickly, if at all. My mom has done a lot of research over time to find items that would make my life easier and safer. She found a voice activated phone which was probably more money than it was worth.

It was a speaker phone designed to be answered by simply saying a greeting in between rings. It would hang up by itself after a minute or two of silence. There was also a remote control with a single button which would enable the phone to scroll through a list of pre-programmed numbers and when the light beside the desired number lit up, the button could be pushed again and the number would be dialed.

The unit sounded handy until it was actually operational on my desk. The remote control was so super sensitive; I could not even hold it without the button activating the dialing process. It was, and still can be, rather moody and does not always terminate the connection automatically as it should. To this day I still use it despite its quirks. I have never programmed a number into it or used the remote. I only use it to answer calls. My cell phone is what I use to make calls.

The funny thing is, if there would have been better cell phone technology eight years ago I might not even have needed this overpriced speaker phone.

This leads me to my newest piece of technological gadgetry—my almighty Blackberry Pearl (…no, I am not trying to endorse this product and I do not work for RIM). It is only my third mobile in the last six years so it’s not like I am always on top of the newest trends. I look at phones differently now than in the past.

While this particular model is packed with solutions for bored and disorganized individuals, which I love, I needed to be concerned with a couple of issues. These issues were button placement, and other dialing methods.

Everyone is different and has different needs. I can dial just fine sitting at a desk or table where I can look at the screen of the phone, but I needed a way to make calls when I could not see the screen. I cannot lift the phone up to see it. I rely a lot on memorizing where buttons are on the keypad so I only need to hit one or two of them to call someone.

Therefore, I have my speed dial set up to correspond with the people in my life I call the most and emergency contacts. I also have a dedicated button on the left side of the unit to use my voice dial feature.

I am extremely impressed by the voice dial capabilities. My phone seldom misunderstands the name of the person I tell it to call. After the prerecorded voice tells me it is dialing, I push the speaker phone key. If only my voice recognition software on my computer had understood me that well!

While my cell phone might not be perfect, it works for me. My only complaint is that since it is not a flip style phone, buttons tend to get pushed quite easily when put in its case or squeezed too tightly by someone unaccustomed to handling it.

One item I definitely wanted to highlight before I ended my column this month, is something my parents had given me this past Christmas. It replaces another piece of adaptive technology I have utilized for the past eight years. I will not say it is not without a bit of a glitch, but in truth it works just as well as the unit it replaced. It was cheaper too.

The technological wonder I speak of is The Clapper Plus (I’m not trying to sell or endorse this product either, so just consider this a review). It is a lot like the outlet units I had previously, but I think it works better. The remote is smaller as well.

All that needs to be done is to plug this white box into the wall outlet, and then two electrical items can be plugged into the box. Then, these electrical units can be powered on and off by the remote. The buttons are fairly easy to press, and there is also a key ring attached.

Sound sensory technology is still present, something I really do not need. This is the glitch I referred to, even though it isn’t any product malfunction. If there is a loud noise, my lights do not always respond, not that I want them to.

Sometimes my lamp is triggered by talking on my phone, the vacuum, my dog barking, etc. Responses to loud noises are never consistent so this does not happen all the time.

Overall, I really like the product and it keeps me from having to sit in the dark!

Basically, what it boils down to is there is a wealth of information and alternate solutions we can access if we need to find a unique means to accomplish some otherwise simple task. Do not just accept purchasing the most expensive technology on the market because there may be a much cheaper way to get the assistive equipment you need. It may even be something sold at your local retail chain. All you need to do is to think creatively and keep an open mind.

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Tashauna also has her own blog. Rangeelichick