It sucked on stage in Chicago today

January 6, 2016 • Posted in blindness, technology for people who are blind, Uncategorized by

I’ve already written a post here about how people who have visual impairments can use Siri to send text messages and make calls on iPhones. Now, after having broken some fingers in my left hand, I’ve started toying around with another dictation feature on my iPhone: the microphone on the keyboard.

Sorry, Itzhak, no offense intended.

Sorry, Itzhak, no offense intended.

So far, for me, dictating long emails and text messages using the microphone has been more accurate than using Siri. Don’t get me wrong, though. The microphone still comes up with some mischicvious typos.

Or would those be “talkos?”

A few examples. I thanked a friend for sending information on “that Jamaican author” and the text she received thanked her for sending information on that “Jamaican offer.” Maybe the microphone was suggesting I take a trip to the island.

And then, when I texted my sisters to assure them I was trying to keep my spirits up with this dang broken hand of mine, I wrote, “Eyebrows up!” The message read, “I grows up.” The microphone is a smarty-pants, reminding me that as the youngest of seven I remain a spoiled brat — I still have growing up to do.

By far the most embarrassing dictation mistake came when I wrote my boss at my Easter Seals job to tell her I was going to hear Itzhak Perlman give a presentation about disability and the arts in downtown Chicago at noon today. I suggested I might write a post about that event for the Easter Seals blog. The message she received? It identified the renowned violinist and conductor as “It sucked.”

My boss has a sense of humor, but odds are that she will not welcome me dictating any  posts soon.

And odds are you blog readers will not welcome a blog post where I just talk on and on and on and on and on and on, either, but if, after reading all this, you are still interested in giving dictation a try, here’s how :

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Swipe until you get to “General.”
  3. swipe to Siri, and then turn Siri on. (Even if you don’t want to use Siri at all, you need to turn it on for any speech recognition to work.)

From now on, any time you see the small microphone icon next to the spacebar on the iOS keyboard, dictation is available. . . Tap anyplace you can type text, and then tap the microphone icon to start dictating. When you’re finished, tap “Done,” and…viola!

Oops. I meant, “voila!”


If you are blind and use the speech synthesizer VoiceOver (like I do), listen for the space bar on any keyboard that appears, and swipe left once. You’ll hear the word “dictate.” That’s where the microphone is. Double tap there to start dictation, and then two-finger double-tap to finish.

For everyone, sighted or not, if you want to include punctuation in your dictation, all you need to do is say “exclamation mark” or “period” or “comma” and so on. You can say “new line” to dictate a return character, and “new paragraph” to add two returns. Best of all: if you are using the microphone rather than Siri, you can always go back to the QWERTY keyboard to fix typos or add a word or line the old-fashioned way. Now only if I’d done that when I wrote to my boss that the violinist sucked…!

Mary Rayis On January 6, 2016 at 4:12 pm

Ah, the perils of voice recognition software. Between that and autocorrect, texting has become quite a source of amusement for many.

bethfinke On January 6, 2016 at 4:23 pm



Regan Burke On January 6, 2016 at 4:20 pm

Beth! I slipped in and out of 2nd row stage right today, close to the elevator. If I’d seen Whitney I would have made myself known to you in my usual I-see-you-Beth shameful exuberance. I hope you get to the concert tonight. The always cheery and smart Itzak has turned into a very handsome old grey-hair. What a privilege we had today.

Thanks for the tips.

bethfinke On January 6, 2016 at 4:23 pm

Yes, he was wonderful. And your pal Marca wasn’t bad, either! Truly a privilege…


Ray Vegter On January 7, 2016 at 11:32 am

I use hands free while driving, including sending texts, getting addresses on a map program, and making phone calls. I laughed at loud at your blog Beth. You don’t have to be visually impaired or have a lame hand to get a dose of Siri’s antics.

bethfinke On January 7, 2016 at 11:51 am

Oh, yes, that Siri can be a mischievous one, can’t she? Glad my post made you laugh. I really did laugh out loud at the mistakes, so worth all the work I’m putting into this dictation idea I guess! .

Sent from my iPhone, aren’t you impressed?


Benita Black On January 7, 2016 at 2:57 pm

This is an interview with the great Perlman. It’s an hour long and I’d advise you to start at the 6 minute mark, because the interviewer talks too much at the beginning and that’s where Itzhak comes into the conversation. He is simply the best and it is a joy to hear him speak and sublime to hear him play.

bethfinke On January 8, 2016 at 10:56 am

Thanks for this, b. I will definitely listen. I think he is dreamy.

Sent from my iPhone, aren’t you impressed?


Linda Miller On January 9, 2016 at 3:31 pm

Good to read your ‘Eyebrows up!’ (even if you had to correct it). Thinking of you!

ojdoherty On January 11, 2016 at 7:31 am

I often dictate messages that way too, and yes it has written some funny things!

bethfinke On January 11, 2016 at 10:08 am

Care to share some examples…?


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