Voice Recognition Software that can format papers in APA, MLA, etc.?
April 8, 2016 9:37 AM   Subscribe

I'm an academic librarian and one of my patrons is a very bright young woman who is a visually impaired junior (3rd year uni student). She has a rare progressive neurological disease. She uses various programs (Voice Dream and something else the name of which I cannot remember) that read textbooks and academic journal articles to her. She is able to type somewhat but may gradually lose some of that capacity. She relies on her mom and grandma for a lot but neither ever went to college and there are things they can't help her with. Is there any Voice Recognition Software that can actually format her papers? Where if she tells it "APA cover page" it can do it with the words she speaks? Or "Chicago footnote"?

Her sighted classmates could probably use something like that too!
posted by mareli to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Pretty sure that Dragon can do this. Also, the resource page at National Federation of the Blind is your friend. Good luck!
posted by Melismata at 9:58 AM on April 8, 2016

The National Federation of the Blind has a Technology Center that might be able to point you to specific applications or to local resources that could walk you through available technologies. Here is their contact information.
posted by goggie at 10:00 AM on April 8, 2016

Is she open to learning LaTeX? It's a bear in other ways but can do citations very easily once it's set up properly. Ie: \cite{my-key} turns into whatever bibliography style was specified. I'm not sure if any of the bibTeX library managers are accessible though.
posted by Alterscape at 10:08 AM on April 8, 2016

I just searched the Dragon website with the terms "APA format" and then "MLA format" and neither yielded anything.
posted by mareli at 10:20 AM on April 8, 2016

I use Dragon and it does have commands for inserting footnotes and citations (in Dragon 12, it's in the Reference menu), but you would need to know the format that is needed. However, it also has the ability to use user-generated commands so if she can take the time to set up custom commands, that would be totally possible. Dragon is the most robust VR program that exist, IMO, and it can do a lot but you do need to take the time to train it, work with the commands, and customize it.

What about using a bibliographic software in combination with voice recognition? RefWorks has a plug-in for Word ("Write-n-Cite") and will automatically format based on any style guide. She could use that via using Dragon to access the menus in Word or through the web login. There may be other options (Zotero, etc) but RefWorks is the one I am familiar with as it is supported at my institution. I think that may the closest method to what you are asking for that is possible.
posted by epanalepsis at 11:01 AM on April 8, 2016

LaTeX can be a good option for people with limited vision. I knew someone in college who both used LaTeX for writing and used the TeX source together with a screen reader for math and chemistry classes (because the "proper" audio textbooks/software couldn't handle equations--he got funding to pay people to retype things). However, it's a big pain to use with speech-to-text software. I also had a gig in college where I took dictation in LaTeX because tex-ing with Dragon is laborious, at least if you do math. The mention of APA and Chicago style suggests she's not in math, so she wouldn't have to say 'backslash' and 'curly brace' quite as often.

On the other hand, LaTeX would let her set up all the annoying formatting stuff once and for all--she could have a Chicago template, an APA template, an MLA template, etc. It takes some work to do Chicago-style footnotes with bibtex, but it's a solved problem.
posted by hoyland at 4:21 PM on April 8, 2016

What has she been using up 'til now? Is that not working? If she is a junior, she must have written papers. Have you talked to the Disability Resource Center or whatever it's called on your campus? This is their job. They are the experts on accommodation and may well know what would work best for this student. Chances are they have already worked with students with similar issues & can offer alternatives immediately. They may have document conversion services or other ways to get her papers in the right formats--for example, they may have templates already created in whatever they recommend. She can start there--or you can--rather than spend a lot of time experimenting with various products.
posted by Nosey Mrs. Rat at 3:50 PM on April 10, 2016

It's a small state college in a very poor US state and the disabilities coordinator has not provided her with adequate resources.

I contacted the National Federation for the Blind and they did not offer much help.

I guess I was just hoping that a program I, a not super-tech-savvy older person, could imagine existing would, in fact, exist.
posted by mareli at 11:03 AM on April 11, 2016

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