When Edwin was 19, he sustained a spinal cord injury that resulted in paralysis from the neck down and the need to use a ventilator. In those early years, the 1980s, Edwin took advantage of new electric wheelchair technology that allowed him to drive his wheelchair independently using a drinking straw. However, besides supporting his ability to move, technology had not yet developed to a great extent to meet his needs, and he relied heavily on family caregivers to help him.
Now 61, Edwin loves to use his smart home devices to support his independence. “The flashbacks faded when voice assistants, the Internet, and apps opened up a world of control over my home environment and the work I do today,” said Edwin. Edwin has a speech disability, so he needs to take multiple steps to get past the voice assistants who don’t understand his commands. For example, he uses the Alexa app to control some of the devices around his house while asking his caregivers to engage Alexa to manage other tasks. While Alexa has helped improve Edwin’s independence, he wishes it could be simpler to use for people with speech impairments.
Click on Alexawhich allows customers to interact with Alexa via touch instead of voice, and is now available on Fire tablets, helping make Alexa more accessible to customers like Edwin.
Bringing click to Alexa for more devices and adding new functions
Tap Alexa, which was previously only available on Echo Show devices, and offers on-screen tiles to allow quick access to common requests, such as setting an alarm or playing music. With its new availability on Fire tablets, this could be particularly useful for customers with speech and/or mobility impairments, who prefer to use more portable devices, such as the Edwin, who mounts their tablet to their wheelchair. Additionally, the feature can come in handy for customers who prefer to interact with Alexa without speaking.
For the first time, customers can use Tap to Alexa with a compatible Bluetooth switch to navigate and interact with a Fire tablet, which can be useful for individuals with limited mobility. Customers can also use a new text-to-speech functionality, where they can type a phrase and then click an icon to have it spoken out loud. This can be useful for clients who have speech disabilities or unique voice patterns, who are nonverbal or who do not speak.
according to American Speech-Language Hearing AssociationMore than two million people in the United States have expressive language disabilities and rely on augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices to generate speech to interact with the world.
“We’ve brought Tap to Alexa to Fire, along with offerings like Text to Speech, to make it easier for more people to access smart home technology,” said Giuliana Tarbe, Senior Product Manager, Alexa for Everyone. “After, after Set up their deviceWith one click, customers can directly ask Alexa to play their favorite TV show, turn on the lights, or help them connect with friends and loved ones. It may sound simple, and it is – it provides simpler access to Alexa benefits to help support all of our customers. “
As David Mahmarian, Multimedia User Experience (UX) Designer for Alexa for Everyone explains, “I’ve always envisioned Tap to Alexa as a mobile tablet-based experience ever since I started working on the initial designs for the Echo Show devices. From the beginning, I thought of my younger brother Paul and I thought in how this can benefit him by providing the ability to interact with Alexa independently and also helping him communicate.Paul is autistic and doesn’t talk at all, but grew up using assistive technologies to help him generate speech.My personal hope is to provide Tap to Alexa on Fire tablets , with this added functionality from Text to Speech, is that it will be a useful tool and help people like my brother feel more connected, providing access to all the great things Alexa can do.”
Innovation side by side with customers
The Alexa team for everyone Cooperated with members United Spine Society Based in Atlanta, Georgia. Edwin, along with other members of the nonprofit who have speech and mobility disabilities, provided feedback on the feature during development.
Similar to Edwin, Angie has used a wheelchair since her spinal cord injury. Inge often speaks in a low voice, and her voice fluctuates throughout the day, which makes it difficult for her to use voice technology. After using Tap to Alexa on a Fire Tablet and satisfied with the experience, Angie said, “This makes it simple…it will make everything easier.” Lying down, for example, Angie said that her voice is often weaker and that her skill is limited. “If I’m lying down, clicking Alexa will make my life 100% better.”
Adina Bradshaw, Vice President of Adina Bradshaw, Vice President of access to technology At United Spinal. “It’s a rewarding process for everyone involved.”
Tap to Alexa on Fire tablets (8th generation and later) are available today in the US, UK, Germany and Japan.
If you are interested in learning more about Amazon Accessibility, visit amazon.com/accessibility. In addition, you can learn more about other Alexa features related to speech, such as adaptive listeningand cooperate with companies, including Foisette.