My name is Ashley, and I am writing this article without my hands.
I’m using a talk-to-type dictation technology that allows me to compose written content and do word processing all while remaining hands-free.
I live with rheumatoid arthritis, as well as osteoarthritis and other musculoskeletal/chronic pain conditions.
I was told one month ago that I would likely need a total thumb joint replacement, on top of my upcoming knee replacement.
Currently, I have my hand in a thumb stabilizer brace, and often have a finger splint on some of my other fingers as well.
That’s just my right hand.
My left hand apparently has the wrist joint of an 80-year-old, according to my surgeon.
I am actually 33 years old.
I’m more than just a patient, though.
I’m also a writer.
In addition to writing for Healthline, I have published three books, freelance for several magazines, and run my own blog and website.
So, as you can imagine, I need my hands. But, my hands don’t always cooperate.
From my hobbies of birdwatching and astronomy, to everyday activities, like doing the dishes and vacuuming, some things are just made more difficult because of the loss of function, and lost range of motion in my hands.
The pain in my fingers and wrists is sometimes unbearable.
I’ve had to give up kettlebell, softball, and playing ukulele.
It also makes following my passion of writing just a little more difficult, as the hands and fingers are a necessity for typing or actual handwriting.
But this isn’t a sad story. It’s a story about how to just adapt and overcome.
I am grateful for hands-free technology that allows me to be able to dictate what I want to say.
Sure, I’ll have to go back and do a lot of proofreading. There are a lot of mistakes that are made as the computer software struggles to recognize my voice and interpret what I’m trying to say.
But all in all, it’s worth it. My hands don’t hurt now, and I can still share my words with the world.
I’m still learning, though, as are my computers. I often forget to include punctuation when I’m dictating what I want to write.
And I struggle with the emotional component. Is someone who is just talking at the computer still technically a writer?
Things like that might seem silly to some, but when you have lived with chronic illness for nearly your entire life, you sometimes have some struggles with identity and your career path.
I just feel very lucky and blessed to live in a day and age where technology exists that allows me options. For instance, talk-to-type and talk-to-text. We are truly in the era of smart technology, and I for one am happy for that fact.
If you’re curious about how it works, you may not need to look any further than your own smartphone.
Now, iPhones have talk-to-text function and Siri built in. Then, there is Amazon Alexa that you can talk to on command.
The software in my Mac computer operates in basically the same way.
Often I use special headphones and a microphone in order to ensure the best quality and the easiest chances of voice recognition. But those things are optional.
With many computers the user can just talk to the computer screen with no need for fancy gadgets as most computers have a built-in mic and speakers for audio input and output.
There are several options for talk-to-text software that allow for transcription and dictation. The most popular option, which I have, is called Nuance Dragon Dictate.
This comes in both the home use and professional versions, and is available on Mac and PC. Both my computers are Apple, so naturally I use the Mac version.
From what I understand, there are fewer bugs with the PC version, as well as more purchasing options, but I have not run into any trouble with the one I use.
There’s also a built-in component in most computers that sometimes could work just as well. To locate the built-in option, if you have it, you will have to look under accessibility options.
This is a part of your computer that, if you’re healthy, you may not have ever needed to use. Under the accessibility menu, there are often options to enlarge text, read things out loud, or, yes, even to dictate what you’d like to say.
I am not the only writer who does this. Many authors use transcription technology, as do medical doctors and their assistants.
In fact, this technology is not only for people who have limited ability or hand pain. And there are other options out there, too, some even allowing users to “type” with their eyes.
I’m still learning, but I’m fascinated by the fact that dictation technology has allowed me to talk to my computer and have it write out what I want to say. It’s literally typing it out for me, and I can get out all of my feelings verbally, without having to (painfully) lift a finger.
I don’t want to give up typing. I want to stay mobile and active as long as possible, and if that involves typing, then great.
I want to be able to still do my best … but on days that I have trouble typing, this provides me with options.
I want to still remain productive on my bad days, as do so many who live with chronic pain or chronic illness. This technology allows me to stay productive and I’m grateful for it.