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A Hands-Free Guide to Speech Recognition

taught by: Marc Thorson
co-presented by: Stacy Carston Sporie

Session Summary

Learn about speech recognition from a full-time digital accessibility expert who relies on it all day, every day! Discover design and development techniques that will improve experiences for your customers who rely on speech recognition.


Need a friend during the pandemic? Talk to your computer with speech recognition! It might even do what you want it to! Marc would know, he has been talking to his computer for years.

Born with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), Marc, like others within our inspiring “disabled” community, has endured enormous challenges throughout his life yet has found a path in his life that has led to a very successful and rewarding career as an accessibility architect/visionary at Nelnet. He is eternally grateful for the support and assistance he has received along the way from family, friends, coworkers, colleagues, and others, but along with those people — technology is a huge part of his support network, and speech recognition, in particular, is vital to his independence.

Something Marc and his teammates on the Nelnet Accessibility Team have noticed throughout their many years of experience with digital accessibility is that there are a lot fewer resources available about how to design and develop interfaces that work well for speech recognition users when compared to users of other types of assistive technology, and we would like to change that paradigm. Marc will draw on his personal experience as a full-time user of speech recognition (and also as a veteran digital accessibility practitioner) to provide insight into what does and does not work well.

We also plan to focus on success criteria in WCAG 2.1 that have a major impact on the user experience for individuals who rely on speech recognition as well as other similar personas, e.g. home automation personal assistants, that deserve more and more consideration nowadays. Ultimately, it is our hope that you will learn to appreciate the importance of speech recognition within our population and ensure great customer experiences for everyone, including those relying on speech and/or voice recognition technology.

Practical Skills

  • Gain more empathy and understanding for those who leverage speech recognition
  • Discover design and development techniques that improve experiences for people using speech recognition
  • Learn about pitfalls to avoid that may create barriers for individuals relying on speech recognition