Accessibility for Voice Activation Software

Have you ever watched Red Dwarf with Holly the talking computer and wanted to talk to your computer? For some people talking is their only way to use a computer.

What is voice activation software?

Voice activation software has advanced voice recognition that can listen to your voice through a microphone and convert this to computer instructions. It has evolved from simple sound detection to being able to understand words in multiple languages.

You will find it today being used on mobile phones such as Apples Siri to specialised assistive software on computers. Dragon Naturally Speaking, is probably the most popular voice activation software currently available.

How does web accessibility impact voice activation software?

If you have audio automatically play on your site, it can make it difficult for someone using voice activation to give voice commands. This making it hard to do anything while the audio is playing.

It takes more time to perform any task using voice activation, so moving through hundreds of links can be more trouble than its worth.

If there are little or no structure tags on a webpage, it can be very hard and slow to move and find information. Structure tags are things like headings and html5 section tags with ARIA roles.

You can read more about headings in the article Get started with Structured Headings and I will be covering ARIA in a later post.

Having timed restrictions such as only allowing people a limited time to perform a task may mean that its impossible to use with voice activation software.

Who will use voice activation software?

This started out as a very specialist software for people with physical limitations that prevent them from using a keyboard or mouse.

As the technology evolved it has moved into main stream products and now is used in many mobile devices.

Anyone may use voice activation software for any number of reasons from literacy difficulties to severe physical limitations. Some people may use it simply for their convenience over touch screen keyboards.

Things to note

It is important to remember people may use more than one assistive technology at the same time. It may be used with a screen magnifier or screen reader or other assistive technology.

You should also not assume anything about the people who may use voice activation software. It can be someone using it for better productivity or someone with multiple severe physical impairments.

Understanding how to build device independent websites can help improve peoples experience who use assistive technology. You can read the article A Little Accessibility Guide to Device Independence to learn a little about this.

Have your say

  • Do you use or ever seen voice activation software being used?
  • Have you ever used Siri or similar voice activation on a mobile device?

Why not share your experiences of voice activation software or ask us a question.

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