An assessment of the contribution of speech interfaces to open access education
At Hatfield we have had considerable experience in dealing with blind and disabled students, and since 1988 we have been researching into speech interfaces, paying particular attention to their usability and suitability for different applications and different classes of user. There are currently an increasing number of commercially available products offering speech input for disabled users and speech output for the blind. Although this is an important advance in improving access to education for the disabled, there are still a number of problems as yet unresolved which militate against the full use of such technology by many disabled users. In many cases improvements to the human-machine interface which are designed primarily with the able bodied in mind make the system harder to use for the disabled. Interface design is one o the major problems we are addressing within the Intelligent Speech Driven Interface Project - 'ISDIP'. The ultimate aim of ISDIP is to develop a voice interface for the full range of computer applications. We currently have two demonstrators - a speech input word processor and a diary management system using speech output. Experiments are being carried out at Hatfield with disabled and able-bodied users to evaluate the effectiveness of the interface to the word processor and the usability of the system. Major results of these evaluations are reported in this paper.