Ask Alex: Voice recognition technology

Alex BarkerAlex Barker, AbilityNet’s Disability Consultant, provides his advice about voice recognition as part of his regular ‘Ask Alex’ series:

One question that we’re often asked is: "How good is the built-in voice recognition for both Windows and Mac computers?"

It used to be fairly flaky and you needed to have the patience of a saint to get it to work. Now, it is fairly easy to set it up, although we’d recommend that you do as much training as possible so the system recognises your voice. I always equate learning voice recognition with learning a musical instrument. You’ve got to put the time in to get decent recognition.

Another question we are often asked is “What sort of microphone do I need?”. First things first, please don’t use an old microphone that has a 3mm jack which goes into a line-in socket on your computer. A USB microphone is really essential, unless you want to get really frustrated!
If you have issues with hand and arm movement, it might be worth considering a microphone that is desk mounted, rather than one that you put on your head.
If you want some step by step instructions on setting up voice recognition, please have a look at My Computer, My Way. You can always give us a call on 0800 048 7642 or drop us an email to

Need guidance about how to use voice recognition technology?

Further resources

Why get tech help?

Factsheet: Voice recognition: An overview

My Computer My Way: How to improve speech recognition in Windows 11

Webinar recording: Don't Disable Me: How you can avoid creating barriers for disabled people