Can You Hear Me Now

In today’s world most technology is voice activated.

Although I think this feature is cool, it doesn’t always work for me because I have a speech impairment.

My iPhone has a voice feature called Siri. I try to use it to make my life easier but often it doesn’t understand me. When it fails to comprehend what I’m saying, it ticks me off. And, for some funny reason, it seems to only understand me when I’m upset and say something naughty. When this happens, it picks it right up and responds, “that’s not nice”.

At this point, I’m thinking, for real Siri.

Since technology is the way of the world today and voice commands are on the rise, I’m glad there’s a project underway that will help people with speech impairments.

For the past month I’ve participated in the Speech Accessibility Project.

The Speech Accessibility Project is led by the University of Illinois Urbana Campus. The goal of the project is to receive speech patterns from people who have speech impairments to make voice activated technology more receptive to speech differences.

The project is seeking out people with disabilities such as cerebral palsy, down syndrome, and those who’ve had a stroke that impaired their speech.

During my participation, I spoke sentences and commands into programs such as Alexa, turn up the volume and asked to give me a recipe with beans and rice, and fill my albuterol prescription. The range of the sentences and commands were so diverse that I could tell the program is really trying to improve voice features so it can recognize anything no matter who’s speaking.

Participating in this project was time consuming, but worth it. At the end of the day if I can lend a hand in helping technology become more accessible for people who have unique voices, I’m all for it.

Another good thing about this project, I received a stipend for participating. Often, advocates aren’t offered anything for their time, which isn’t right in my book. If you need experts in disabilities, who are disabled, they should be offered something for their time just like anyone else.  We are experts with lived experience. My caregiver also received a stipend for assisting me which I think was a bonus as well.

For my peers with unique voices, I highly suggest that you consider participating in this project. The way I see it, we will make a tremendous contribution on how upcoming voice activated features will be able to understand us.

Click the link for flyer to learn more about the project.
Home Page – SpeechAccessibility (

General Speech Accessibility Project flyer (1).pdf

6 comments on “Can You Hear Me Now

  1. April McIntosh on


    I can’t tell you how happy your article makes me. As you know I have facial paralysis on my left side which affects my speech. Most people understand me fine even with impaired speech, but Alexa is another story. I have the same problems that you have with Siri. It’s been so frustrating that I often just ask my husband to give her verbal prompts so that I don’t have to. Your article gives me hope that someday I’ll be able to talk to Alexa and be understood.



    • Shari Cooper on

      Thanks for your comment April!
      Hopefully, this issue will get better soon. Let’s keep hope alive. Let me also encourage you to think about participating in the Speech Accessibility Project. Your insight would be very valuable.

  2. Michelle Cella on

    I don’t think I would have known about this research project if it wasn’t for you and your blog Shari! Thanks so much for sharing!

  3. Margie on

    I’m interested in sharing this information with my speech-language pathologist colleagues. If successful, it could help a lot of clients. Thanks, Shari—I’d love to hear more about it.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *