Amazon’s Alexa aids in accessibility for everyone during Global Accessibility Awareness Month – CNET
As one of the world’s leading digital voice assistants, Amazon’s Alexa has revolutionized the way people access information — from fun and games, music and entertainment to the more important stuff like communicating with family and friends. But while Alexa can improve the life of anyone who uses an Amazon Echo smart speaker, it plays a special role in the lives of those with disabilities — and those who care for them.
Amazon Echo Show 10: Alexa puts her spin on moving smart…
What’s more, the very same quality-of-life improvements that benefit people experiencing issues with communication, motor skills or other physical or cognitive disabilities can also help those without such issues. In other words, the accessibility features built into Alexa can help meet everyone’s needs, regardless of their health.
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As Global Accessibility Awareness Month comes to a close, we’re taking a look at some of the latest accessibility features Amazon has implemented in its Echo line of smart speakers and displays. Here are a few of our favorite innovations.
Amazon’s CareHub fosters independence for those needing care
Some people need just a little more support than others but are otherwise capable of leading healthy, independent lives. For those who could benefit from some extra support — occasional check-ins from a caregiver or hands-free ways to call for help — Amazon created CareHub.
CareHub lets caregivers connect with those for whom they care in noninvasive ways, like being able to use Alexa’s Drop In feature to check on someone, while also leveraging some of the same conveniences people everywhere use Alexa for every day like reporting the news, playing music or turning on smart lights.
Those interactions and more are logged so caregivers can also check in without disturbing anyone, all while maintaining a level of privacy and autonomy. For example, a caregiver might see that “Entertainment” was played at a certain time, indicating the person is awake and interacting with Alexa. However, specific details about what was played — song titles, for example — are not disclosed.
Setting up CareHub is a multistep process with many options, but Amazon has a webpage where caregivers and those they care for can be guided through it. Start by clicking the link to Amazon CareHub here.
Alexa can spell it out for you
Hearing impairments exist along a wide spectrum, with some people able to hear more or less than others. For those closer to total hearing loss — or those calling from a noisy environment — video calls with Alexa have a Call Captioning setting, which transcribes the other caller’s speech into written words on the screen in real time — much like voice dictation software on your phone or computer. Here’s how to enable it:
1. Swipe down from the top of the screen and tap Settings.
2. Scroll down to Accessibility, then slide the Call Captioning toggle to on.
If full-blown dictation seems like overkill, Alexa has a lighter-duty feature called Real Time Text, which is basically a sidebar through which you and the other caller can text message each other. Here’s how to enable it:
1. Swipe down from the top of the screen and tap Settings.
2. Scroll down and tap Accessibility, then scroll to RTT and slide the toggle to on.
3. Read the information page that appears, then tap Enable.
Amazon’s smart displays can meet users where they’re at
Not everyone can perfectly center themselves in front of a webcam — and not everyone wants to. Whether experiencing a mobility issue or just getting caught in the middle of a complicated recipe, sometimes it’s difficult to still during a video call. But if you’re using the latest Echo Show 10 or Echo Show 8 for that call, you can let Alexa worry about tracking you down.
The screen on the Echo Show 10 can swivel to follow you around the room — your kitchen, say — when you’re on a video call, or even just watching a show on Hulu. That can also mean you don’t have to worry about clearing a path or repositioning your Alexa device, whether to make a call or watch a video, if you use a wheelchair or other mobility device.
But let’s face it, the Echo Show 10 is a premium device with a price tag to match. For many people, the Echo Show 8 is a more affordable option.
It doesn’t swivel or move, at least not in a physical sense. But when the new generation comes out in June, its updated 13-megapixel, wide-angle lens lets it do something almost as good — it can pan and zoom around the frame to keep the speaker centered in the view.
That doesn’t help much with watching movies and shows, but it might be a game changer for video calls.
Other ways Alexa can help with accessibility
Aside from some of the more obvious accommodations — volume controls, brightness settings and the like — here are some of the less-obvious settings you can use to help make anyone’s Alexa experience great:
- Show and Tell: This feature helps people with vision impairments identify everyday household objects using an Echo Show smart display. Simply hold an object about one foot away from the device’s camera and say, “Alexa, what am I holding?” Then, rotate the device around so Alexa can see it from all sides, after she asks.
- Tap to Alexa: On Amazon Echo Show smart screens, instead of saying “Alexa” out loud, you can tap the screen to summon the voice assistant. To turn on Tap to Alexa, swipe down from the top of the screen, tap Settings, then toggle on Tap to Alexa.
- Adjust Alexa’s speaking rate: Simply ask Alexa to speak either slower or faster, or to return to the default speaking rate to hear Alexa at normal speed.
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May 23, 2021 at 05:09AM