Happy Day

This is another mundane post about daily life, this one about the trials and tribulations of a crip who has growing repetitive stress injuries, mostly tendinitis connected to my cerebral policy, that make typing sometimes uncomfortable and always slow, and speech that is slurred enough to make speech recognition software always more than a little frustrating. Today is a happy day because I’m dictating this blog post using MacSpeech Dictate. Don’t misconstrue this post as an endorsement or advertisement for this particular piece of software. But if this software proves itself as good as the initial trial is being, it will change the way I use a computer a lot and for the better. So I’m cautiously happy and hoping not to get frustrated with this software as I’ve gotten frustrated so much in the past by speech recognition.

Of course as mundane as this is, it is also connected to really deep and important issues about impairment, ableism — a word that the software obviously did not know — and disability. One of the sessions that I went to at SDS last summer was about a speech impairment and different modes of technology to either enhance or make possible communication, some of the strategies responding to impairment and others resonding to ableism. The panel of people who spoke included quite a range of different kinds of speech impairments. I ended up feeling very emotional and not very articulate or analytical about what I heard at the time. So many bits and pieces of what some of the panelists talked about struck personal chords, but those chords are very fragmented for me. Mostly now as an adult my speech is understood, or if it isn’t, then the miscomprehension, or the unwillingness to listen to a crip with slurred speech, doesn’t have a big impact on my life. But as a child I struggled with communication a lot, needing translation, facing harassment, and dealing with harmful assumptions all of the time. So listening to the adults on the panel, all of whom were talking about current strategies and the current twine of impairment and ableism in their lives, was really about remembering my past that is loosely connected to my present but not to my actual day-to-day present. Emotional but in ways that I’m still not being able to describe very well.

And this isn’t even beginning to think about the issues of being a writer for whom the act of fingers, or more precisely one finger, on a keyboard is the physical action of writing. If speech recognition works for me this time, how might it change my writing? It’s funny how these questions seem inconsequential because they are about impairment, not about ableism. And yet don’t I know all too well that the sheer physicality of our bodies has to be important too?

Avery Tompkins said,

October 30, 2008 @ 9:23 am

THANK YOU for writing about this… I also have tendinitis that goes from my hands up to my elbows in my forearms and it’s severely affected by the amount of typing that I have to do. I have been incredibly worried about transcribing interviews and typing my dissertation as typing anything of length takes me many more sessions than most other people. The pain is terrible – as I’m sure you know. I will definitely have to check into that program… although I also worry that my writing and speaking voices are incredibly different and I’m not sure how my writing would be affected by needs to voice instead of type. So many things to think about and consider…

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