Alexa Meets Accessibility (Updated)

Devices like Google Home and Amazon Echo are huge right now. Apple recently joined the smart home market with the HomePod. All this tech can be fun but it also can play a huge roll in accessibility and independence for those with disabilities.
When you have a disability, every little thing that you do by yourself is important. Every bit of independence is important. Whether it be putting on your socks or controlling the lights in your house or even making a phone call without help. Alexa can help with some of these things. I can’t speak to google home or the HomePod because I don’t have those things but I will tell you how Alexa helps us.

1️⃣ “Alexa turn on the living room lights” – We use this command many many times a day! It’s perfect for those who have limited hand use. Or even, those who just hate to get out of bed to turn the lights off. In our house the light switches are in the weirdest places and in some rooms we just have plugged in lights or lamps. Some are even behind doors which can make them a little extra annoying. For us using Alexa for our lights is
specifically helpful for a few reasons. For Cole it’s helpful simply because of his height when it comes to the ceiling fan. For me, walking in the dark makes me somewhat nervous simply because I don’t want to fall or lose my balance. I love that if I get up in the middle of the night I can turn the lights on before getting out of bed instead of fumbling for the lights.
here is the bulbs that we currently use: https://amzn.to/2FbZdGJ
2️⃣ “Alexa call mom” or “Alexa send a message to mom” – This like the light command is great for those with limited use of their hands. This allows you to make calls and send texts with only your voice. I love to use this on days where my arthritis in my hands is flaring up. Basically the Echo is a giant speaker which means voice calls and texts is great when your hands are busy with the baby, cleaning or baking. Helpful for anyone right?

3️⃣ “Alexa what movies are playing?” – This is a fabulous command to use for those who have issues with making phone calls or talking to people in person, like those on the spectrum often do. Find out what’s playing and even get your tickets just from asking.

4️⃣ Alexa includes a variety of games you can play simply by speaking to it. This is great because it just gives you another option for entertainment. Playing a game with Alexa does require a level of dialogue that may be tricky for those on the spectrum. A person can practice conversing and speaking more fluidly by talking to the Echo in the comfort of their space.

5️⃣ “Alexa set an alarm for…/set a timer for…” – Being able to set an alarm or timer can be helpful for everyone. However, I absolutely love the timer option because if I am using my wheelchair, the timer and controls on the oven are tricky to reach. People with sight impairments could greatly benefit from this as well. It will even give you feedback after a command like, “OK, your alarm is set for am tomorrow morning”. Something easily taken for granted, made easier for those who struggle. Recently we have set Echo alarms for the kiddos we watch. It tells them when to put their coats on so they are ready for pick up. I like this because for both the kids and I it doesn’t feel so naggy if it’s Alexa. With our smart bulbs we have a routine set up so the lights turn on or flash when its time to wake up in the morning. At the same time, Alexa tells us “Good Morning” and usually the weather or news which is a lot more pleasant than a blaring alarm. Using IFTTT your Phillips Hue bulb can be set to blink when an Alexa timer goes off.

6️⃣ For those with impaired vision, there is even more ways Alexa can be helpful. She can be synced with your phone calendar and talk to you about it. She says things like, “You have an appointment with Dr. Smith at 3 o’clock this afternoon”. Amazon has expanded their Alexa line to include appliances like microwaves, thermostats, vacuum robots and more. Products like these mean visually impaired individuals can easily control all of these things independently. Simpler uses include asking what the weather is, what time it is, ordering products from Amazon and so much more!

7️⃣ Some people with disabilities (like me) have trouble with short term recall. This makes some things like remembering items for the grocery store or tasks for later a little tricky. All I have to do is say “Alexa add…to my grocery list/ to do list”. Then if I am at the store I can whip out my phone and make sure I don’t forget a thing. Alexa will even read your lists out to you if you need to recap what’s on them. We also have various bulbs set for other timers, like our living room turns pink as a reminder to not be late picking kids up from school in case time gets away from us. Cole takes advantage of the reminder function to remember to take meds at specific points during the day.

These include just a handful of ways that the Amazon Echo is helpful in the day-to-day for those with all different disabilities!

Thanks for reading and comment if you have a way your smart home device makes your life easier.

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