Friday, January 4, 2013

Adaptive Testing: Type When I'm Talking To You

Today's post may seem a little strange. In fact, it might seem a bit stilted and possibly even mechanical. If that is the case, it is by design. This post, is being generated, 100%, by my voice. Look Ma, no hands!

As part of the process of performing adaptive testing, I am looking at as many options as are available (and those that are company can actually afford to purchase) to see exactly what it feels like to use adaptive software. What do I mean by adaptive software? I mean software that typically falls under the heading of "used by people with a disability". Screen readers for visually impaired users. Voice recognition software for those who, shall we say, do not have the full range of motion with their hands. Some might say "oh cool, you just have to talk and the system will record your voice. Simple!"

It may sound simple, but don't mistake simple for easy. It's not a full proof system.  Occasionally , letters get dropped, words get misspelled , strange spaces and formatting occur , and there is a fair amount of modification and tweaking necessary ( and for me to speak in my typically parenthetical approach , with my various asides and tangents , is murder to try to talk through and get it in a format that is even vaguely recognizable in my own voice).

One of the things that they don't tell you is that you have to state, specifically, what punctuation you are going to use. IT can handle contractions and such, but it doesn't automatically insert commas, quotation marks, parentheses, semicolons or periods. Also, different programs respond to different command. New Paragraph works in some applications, return or newline in others. At times, it loses the microphone connectivity, or it just refuses to turn on, and then I have to restart the application. Again, for me, this is a novelty, another approach to accessing a system. However, to get the full feel and import of what you are doing, set yourself up to actually use the application as though you couldn't access the system any other way. This is a lot tougher than it sounds. When you really have to use just your voice to type, it's a rather, shall we say, torturing experience. 

I've been learning a great deal about what makes this kind of software tick, and why it's needed in certain places... and how frustrating it can be when it just stops working (see, I'm typing now because, well, the app has decided to not want to cooperate any longer. It will probably be fixed with a system reboot. In any event, using tools like JAWS and Dragon are opening my eyes (no pun intended) to the challenges that people face when they try to use these tools. I'm sure with practice and familiarity, I'll get better, but really, for those who try to put up with these kind of products every day... my hat is of to you!!!
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