Getting into computing
My first jobs in the computer industry were at the County Council in Oxford for 14 years, and then at the Equitable Life in Aylesbury. I started as a trainee computer operator on large mainframes (these took up whole rooms and required air conditioning!), and became Computer Services Manager.
Helping people with a disability
After being made redundant, I met Roger Jefcoate, who ran the Disability Aid Fund to help provide computer equipment and other technology for children and adults with a disability, and he supported me when I set up Top Class Computers in 1994 to provide advice, suitable software and training for people with a disability. I had become interested in this type of software following the birth of my son James, who has Down’s Syndrome, and who is now doing well in supported living in Witney.
This, and other work that I became involved with, led to a lot of travel; at my busiest I averaged 4000 miles a month and blew up several car engines! It was at about this time that I first became interested in voice recognition software so I could become more efficient with my own paperwork and because it was an amazing tool to help people with disabilities such as arthritis and RSI.
I carried out assessments and training for Access to Work for a long time, and am also now accredited and audited annually to carry out training for students through the Disabled Students Allowance - most of this training includes Dragon!
Voice recognition software
Having moved to Witney from Oxford in 2013, I still help people with a disability, but I’m now also helping local businesses become more time efficient on their computers through the use of voice recognition software – Dragon Professional.
I find working with people with a disability very rewarding, especially when they can do something using a computer that they couldn’t do before. In the same way, I gain much satisfaction from helping local businesses discover how to spend less time on their paperwork, and gain a better work–life balance.
My own work–life balance
When not working, I enjoy listening to and playing music, and play an acoustic guitar in various styles – I have always had a bit of a reputation for liking ‘weird’ music!
I also do a bit of running, although I’m not really a natural runner. In March 2014, I ran the Reading Half Marathon and raised £520 for the Yellow Submarine charity in Oxford. They have a café in Park End Street, Oxford, and one at the Witney Leisure Centre, and run courses for young adults with a disability to help them improve their confidence and work skills.
In October 2014, I ran the Oxford Half Marathon with my youngest daughter, and to make it just a bit more difficult, we were tied together! We did this to raise over £1200 for research into myotonic dystrophy – my eldest daughter has recently been diagnosed with this condition, and is taking part in an important research project in Nottingham.
Neil is an accredited Dragon trainer with over 20 years experience helping people get the most out of Dragon, whether they are students, at work, or at home.
He is accredited and audited annually through Student Finance England to provide Dragon software training for students at university, who have a disability, perhaps dyslexia or arthritis, and also undertook assessments and training for Access to Work for many years.
Neil also works with businesses who have too much written work. In Microsoft Word or Outlook, it is perfectly possible to write 1,000 words in 10 minutes once you know how!
Neil's business has been running now for 25 years and there are two websites that you may wish to check...
www.talkingtypist.co.uk relating to Dragon as a productivity tool
www.top-class-computers.com for Dragon and other software to help people with a disability.
Frequently Asked Questions
This course will provide you with a complete introduction to dictating text using Dragon and enable you to write up to 1000 words accurately every 10 minutes!
If you would then like to find out more, there are two other courses available. The next level looks at working with Microsoft Outlook, Excel and Google Chrome, together with other commands to help you control your computer by voice. This is very valuable for people with painful conditions like arthritis or RSI.
The advanced course then looks at Scripting where you can create your own custom commands to Dragon and make it fly! A good example of this might be a simple voice command to open a particular website, type a username and password and log you on!