Authors Zoë Clarke, Simon Judge, Mark Hawley, Pam Enderby
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology, January 2009
Disability and Rehab Journal

Purpose. To explore users’ experiences and perceptions of speech-driven environmental control systems (SPECS) as part of a larger project aiming to develop a new SPECS. The motivation for this part of the project was to add to the evidence base for the use of SPECS and to determine the key design specifications for a new speech-driven system from a user’s perspective.

Method. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 12 users of SPECS from around the United Kingdom. These interviews were transcribed and analysed using a qualitative method based on framework analysis.

Results. Reliability is the main influence on the use of SPECS. All the participants gave examples of occasions when their speech-driven system was unreliable; in some instances, this unreliability was reported as not being a problem (e.g., for changing television channels); however, it was perceived as a problem for more safety critical functions (e.g., opening a door). Reliability was cited by participants as the reason for using a switch-operated system as back up. Benefits of speech-driven systems focused on speech operation enabling access when other methods were not possible; quicker operation and better aesthetic considerations. Overall, there was a perception of increased independence from the use of speech-driven environmental control.

Conclusions. In general, speech was considered a useful method of operating environmental controls by the participants interviewed; however, their perceptions regarding reliability often influenced their decision to have backup or alternative systems for certain functions.

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