Dictation And Audio-Typing

Question: Since first starting to have problems with tendonitis in my wrists earlier this year, one way I have been able to get round the problem is to dictate more letters etc for my (shared) secretary to type [she’ll be joining this list shortly 🙂 ].  One problem with this was that the dictation machines we use at work have a microphone which has a sliding switch which you push back and forth to start and stop the recording.

This proved to be murder on my thumb. However, I was able to avoid this by using a foot pedal which the secretaries use when typing up people’s tapes.  Now guess what has happened — I’m starting to get a sore leg! I was totally baffled as to why my leg was hurting, and then the penny dropped as I realized that using the foot pedal involves holding my foot at an unnatural angle for long periods of concentrated work. Sound familiar?

There really is no alternative to dictating large amounts of work, especially as my employers have recently been cracking the whip by starting to enforce more rigorously the requirement that we have to do five hours of _billable_ work each day (I work as a solicitor). So a certain amount of lateral thinking is going to be needed to get round this one.  I already have IBM ViaVoice on my PC, though this is too slow to replace a human secretary.

However, if I was able to dictate into my PC for audio-typing rather than VR purposes, or use some other form of electronic dictation system, this might be one solution.  I was wondering whether people had any experience of a suitable system or suggestions on how to set one up.

The basic requirements are:

  1. Ability to record, rewind, re-record, play back etc as in standard audio-typing set-up, without too much use of hands or feet (eg voice activated — though with standard, tape-based systems the voice activation facility is generally pretty useless)
  2. Secretary should be able to play back using some kind of foot pedal arrangement as in standard audio-typing set-up
  3. Must be inexpensive (i.e. less than £300 plus VAT; _much_ less if at all possible) Does anyone have any experience of using Dragon Mobile? Does it have the right facilities for playback by a secretary (ie audio-typing) rather than playing into a voice recognition programme? Has anyone used the Olympus digital voice recorder?

Any suggestions welcome. This could have serious consequences for my job if I can’t sort it out.

Answer 1: If they are billing by the hour then surely it doesn’t matter if you take slightly longer to dictate something in with ViaVoice? Bare in mind: you dictating, you then correcting, then your secretary typing up will take almost as long as you dictating into ViaVoice. When did you get Viavoice? Have you tried the newer versions, or Dragon NaturallySpeaking, they may be faster/more accurate.

Have you tried using a bit of ViaVoice, a bit of dictation using the foot pedal, a bit of dictation using the hand switch? Spread the load as much as you can. Doesn’t your voice suffer if you do this amount of dictation?  Find out if the tape machine manufacturers can supply a remote hand switch as well as a foot pedal.

Try speaking to one of the Dragon resellers and ask for a demonstration.

Answer 2: Let’s just face some facts that have slipped out of this sort of billing system (despite the FACT that we are discussing solicitors offices – “do what I say not what I do”). Employers who have DSE users and do not allow appropriate breaks for them are IN BREACH OF LAW. They are committing a criminal offence, REALLY!  This is why we have such problems building for people in your positions. There is a WRONG idea among many employers that this sort of thing must be STOPPED.

You’ll see this chestnut come up on the political agenda again and again. There is this lunatic idea that workers just want to slack all the time, when all the evidence is that this is nonsense. Indeed so important is our profession that the very first thing you ask a new acquaintance is “what do you do” (in Denmark it even found on people’s gravestones).  Somewhere along the way, we need to find a way to persuade employers that an employee need not be bashing away on a keyboard all the time to be working.

I’m alright, I intersperse my work with intensive professional reading (as do our solicitors!!!!!), I go to professional conferences (very hard work but no keyboarding at all – international ones are hardest of all and I’m not joking). Get a copy of the DSE Regs and ACOP (one single document) from the library and get your employers to read it.


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