Veronica With Four Eyes

How To Use Dictation As Assistive Technology With Mainstream Devices

I use dictation as assistive technology frequently when I am using mainstream technology devices such as my computer, phone, and tablet. Also known as speech-to-text, dictation tools take spoken words, numbers, punctuation, and other formatting information as input, and transcribes the audio as text that can be output into a text field, word processing document, or onto a printed page. Learning to use dictation as assistive technology is a valuable skill for learners with low vision who often use multiple input methods, so today I will be sharing my tips for how to use dictation across a variety of different contexts.

When and why I use dictation

Whenever possible, I prefer to type on a physical or digital keyboard when I am working on a writing project, such as a blog post or creative writing. However, there are some situations where typing on a keyboard is not the most effective option, including:

  • Typing on a keyboard that isn’t particularly responsive, or that I have trouble typing on without making mistakes
  • Even though I don’t look at the keyboard while typing, I prefer to use dictation or speech-to-text if I am unable to read print, such as when my eyes were swollen shut
  • If I can’t type with both hands, it’s easier for me to turn on dictation than to type quickly with one hand or write by hand
  • Speaking of typing quickly with one hand, I often make a lot of spelling mistakes when typing with one hand or miss important words, and have great difficulty with handwriting
  • When I have a migraine or am sensitive to light, I don’t want to look at the screen to type something if I can avoid it

Dictation helps to address these barriers in a few different ways, including:

  • More accurate and responsive text input- there are some situations where I can speak faster than I can type
  • Allowing me to type non-visually without looking at a keyboard or screen
  • Automatic spelling correction can lead to fewer mistakes and is easier to proofread
  • Giving an alternative method for writing text that isn’t handwriting- I have dysgraphia, which is characterized by poor handwriting
  • Hands-free text input makes it easier to compose messages during pain flares or write substantial amounts of text with less pain. Many people I know with dysautonomia/POTS, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Chiari Malformation, and similar conditions express a preference for voice typing tools.

Of course, dictation is not the only solution to addressing these access barriers, but it is a free tool built into many mainstream devices, so it is one that is widely accessible.

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My favorite tips for learning to use dictation as assistive technology

Here are my favorite tips for learning to use dictation and speech-to-text tools:

  1. Speak punctuation and spacing when dictating text, otherwise the finished product will be a giant block of text. Make sure to use phrases such as “period” or “question mark” at the end of the sentence and say “new line” or “new paragraph” to add appropriate spacing.
  2. If possible, use a microphone or find an area where there isn’t a lot of background noise, as lots of talking in the background can lead to unwanted input.
  3. Speak words as clearly as possible, as mumbling or mispronunciations of words can lead to errors or incorrect word choices. In a humorous example, a dictation error once led to my blog title Veronica With Four Eyes being written as “Veronica Weather Fries.”
  4. Dictation tools can transcribe over 150 words per minute (WPM), though most tools recommend that users speak at a rate of 50-80 WPM. A popular tip is to have users imagine they are speaking at a similar cadence to a presidential speech (or as I’ve seen on social media, “pretend you’re Obama”)
  5. When dictating longer documents such as a writing project or letter, consider making an outline or writing brief notes for planning out what to say. However, if users forget to say something, they can adjust the text insertion point and either re-enable dictation or type additional information.
  6. Make sure to proofread before sharing or publishing the finished product to catch any typos or formatting errors- such as the example I mentioned in #3. This can be done with text-to-speech or read aloud features that are built into several applications.

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Enable Speech Input and Speech-to-Text for mainstream devices

Dictation and spoken input can be used across several mainstream operating systems and software, including Apple/iOS, Google/Android, Microsoft, and others.

How to use dictation for Windows 10 and Windows 11

  • To use dictation for the first time, the device must be connected to the internet and online speech recognition will need to be enabled in the Settings menu. This can be turned on when opening dictation/voice typing for the first time
  • Turn on Dictation/Voice Typing by placing the text cursor inside of a text box and then pressing the keyboard shortcut “Windows logo key + H”
  • Another option is to select the Microphone icon, which is on select keyboards and visible on the on-screen keyboard
  • To stop dictation, either say “Stop Dictation” or select the microphone icon again

Microsoft has a list of all available dictation commands that can be used across multiple applications that is linked below. Dictation can be used in any application that supports text input.

How to use dictation for Apple, iOS, iPadOS, and Mac

Apple recommends that users speak no more than 40 seconds at a time when using dictation.

  • To enable dictation for the first time, go to the Settings application (System Preferences on Mac) and open the General menu, followed by Keyboard. Within the Keyboard menu, select Enable Dictation
  • A microphone icon will be visible on the on-screen keyboard and can be used across applications like Messages, Mail, social media, and others
  • For keyboard access, dictation can be turned on/off by pressing the Fn key twice.

How to use dictation for Google and Android

Dictation is automatically enabled on most Android phones and can be accessed by pressing the microphone key on the on-screen keyboard.

For Chromebook, dictation will need to be turned on within the Accessibility/Manage accessibility features menu, and can be activated by selecting the on-screen microphone icon or by pressing the keyboard shortcut Search+D or Launcher+D. Dictation automatically stops when the user stops speaking.

How to use dictation for Microsoft Office

Dictation applications can be used in Microsoft Office applications, and select Office applications such as Word, Outlook, OneNote, and PowerPoint have their own dictation options. Dictation tools for Microsoft Office can be activated using the following methods:

  • Select the Dictation icon on the Home Ribbon (in the Voice section)
  • Use a keyboard shortcut- for Word, the keyboard shortcut Alt+’ is supported for Windows, and Option-F1 is used for Mac

This feature is available for Microsoft 365 subscribers.

How to use dictation for Google Docs and Google Slides

Dictation and voice typing can be enabled for Google Docs and Google Slides by opening a document and selecting Tools, followed by Voice Typing. Dictation can also be enabled with another keyboard shortcut (such as Windows logo key + H). A guide to using dictation tools with Google Docs and Google Slides is linked below.

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How to transcribe audio recordings/pre-recorded speech-to-text

One of my friends recorded themselves dictating a passage of the novel they are writing, and wanted to have the text from their audio recording transcribed, converting pre-recorded speech into text. Some options for completing this task include:

  • Selecting the Transcribe option in the Voice menu and uploading an audio recording in Microsoft Word or Microsoft OneNote
  • Using an online transcription tool such as
  • Attaching an audio recording to a text message and sending the recording- one of my friends with no usable vision does this frequently when texting

Text formatting will need to be added and/or adjusted more frequently when using dictation with pre-recorded audio, unless the original user spoke formatting instructions when recording, i.e “new line”, “period”, etc.

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Bonus: Using scribes for dictation

A scribe is a person who writes down what the user dictates by speech or through an augmented communication device. Scribes can provide services either in-person or remotely and record what a user says verbatim, not influencing word choice or providing prohibited help. Scribes may be used in testing environments to record student responses on a test or dedicated answer sheet, or to fill out detailed forms. Depending on the scribe and the task, text may be typed or handwritten.

When I was taking standardized tests and for select exams during high school and undergraduate classes, a school staff member served as my scribe when I filled in answer sheets or had to handwrite information.

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More tips for learning to use dictation as assistive technology

  • Dictation can be used to write alt text and image descriptions by enabling dictation in the text field for an application or website- to learn more, check out my post How To Write Alt Text and Image Descriptions for the Visually Impaired
  • In this context, dictation is being used to author written communications and is different from using captioning tools. Learn more about how I use captioning tools with low vision in Using Google Live Transcribe With Low Vision
  • For students that have a disability accommodation to record classes or lectures, I recommend recording the lecture as a separate audio track and transcribing notes later, instead of trying to use dictation tools in real time
  • Amazon Echo devices offer limited dictation support- learn more in How Amazon Alexa Can Help You Write

How and why I use dictation as assistive technology on my phone, tablet, and computer with low vision and chronic pain