Amazon Echo Show 8 extends the power of Alexa to people with disabilities
Rating: Overall 8.1
Accessibility Support: 8.5/10
Ease of Use: 8/10
- Alternate ways to use the Echo Show based on your abilities
- Smart Display lets people use Alexa beyond voice access
- Tap to Alexa makes it easy for people with speech-related disability to ask questions
Some of the interactions need to be more seamless when using with voice.
The Echo Show 8 extends the power of Alexa to people with disabilities. Echo range of devices are powered by the voice assistant, Alexa. The Echo Show brings ease of use to not only people with mobility-challenges, but also those who have low vision and even people who are deaf and hard of hearing.
The Echo Show 8 has a smart display with an 8” High Definition (HD) screen with stereo sound. Having used the Echo Dot, I was really intrigued by how this was going to work for different disabilities types, so obviously the first place, I explored was the Accessibility Features.
For Visually Impaired People
Being a device powered by voice, one can can play music, set timers and alarms, check the news and weather, hear stories, order food, create shopping lists, shop on Amazon, read Kindle and Audible books, and even control supported smart home devices like an air conditioner or the TV using simple voice commands with Alexa.
The screen reader VoiceView is simple to use. For those that don’t know what a screen reader is, all the information on the screen will be read out and in addition, they can also navigate through the screen using gestures like swipe left, swipe right, double tap to interact with Alexa.
It even has a tutorial that is easy to get people upto speed. With all the basic things like adjusting read speed or punctuation levels, it has the flexibility for visually impaired users who are used to using screen readers.
But since the Echo Show has a key visual element to it, it also has a Screen Magnifier and Colour Inversion feature. The Screen Magnifier feature allows the user to zoom in and out. I think we have all got used to the pinch and zoom magnification on our phones and Echo Show gives us a similar experience. The Colour Inversion feature is meant for individuals with sensitivity to brightness, people who experience color blindness, and people with low vision, by exchanging colour values. Another feature on the Echo device that assists people with colour blindness is the Colour Correction feature, where it modifies the screen colours to suit the user. I see these as great features for low vision users as well as elderly. These features can be enabled using voice commands with Alexa or by selecting ‘Settings’ on the device followed by ‘Accesibility’.
Before I knew it, my mom was intrigued with the screen and how the data was laid out and was giving voice commands like “Alexa, play Jagjit Singh”. The screen resolution and text size in general really help people with low vision.
I think for visually impaired users Alexa is surely something that can become an integral part of day to day life.
For Deaf & Hard of Hearing Users
Now this is where I think, Echo Show can really make a difference. Alexa Captioning is a feature that shows subtitles for Alexa responses when available. In short, what Alexa says, is also provided as a subtitle. I think this is surely a game changer to ensure that either hard of hearing family members and people who are Deaf, can also enjoy the Echo Show.
Obviously, it also has the feature to show subtitles for videos. So, if you are watching a video on YouTube and it has subtitles, it will show it automatically. Isn’t that great?
So now get on with finding recipes on YouTube and see the Subtitles while watching the video.
Alexa also allows you to adjust her speaking rate. You can have her speak faster or slower depending on your preference. All you have to say is, “Alexa, speak faster” or “Alexa, speak slower”. This is also beneficial for the elderly.
Last but not the least, the HD video calling for Deaf people who would like to talk to their families using Sign Language will surely be an added advantage. I know that one can say that this is possible on a mobile, but the size of the screen and the resolution, makes it an enriching experience.
For the Mobility Impaired
If you have limited or severe mobility, Alexa is surely the solution. What I find amazing is that to give a voice command, you don’t need to be near it. So, you can be sitting on your bed and saying “Alexa, whats in the news” and Alexa will recognise your voice and carry out the action. Echo devices have multiple microphones so they can clearly hear your requests from across the room with you having to speak extremely loudly.
I would go to the point of saying, you can even connect household gadgets to the Echo Show like the lighting, doorbell in your house or your Fire TV Stick.
Start now with creating a smart home that works for you and enjoy the experience of Alexa.
For the Speech Impaired
I think the question everyone has is how will a person without speech ask Alexa questions? Well, try the Tap to Alexa feature. Now you can interact with Alexa via touch! Yes, via Touch.
You can ask a question, add to your shopping list, or even check the news.
One can also view contacts, read transcripts of messages, and make calls or send messages without speech by tapping the screen. You can enable Calling & Messaging Without Speech by selecting “Settings” and then “Accessibility.” From here on, just swipe left on the Echo Show’s touchscreen for quick access to all “Communications” features.
Overall, do I think people with disabilities should bring the Echo Show into their houses? Yes, I do. I think it will work for all family members irrespective of their needs and that is surely a good way to start doing things together rather than having a separate device for just a few members of the family.
As we move towards smart homes, controlling devices like lights, doorbells, televisions, the Echo Show can surely be the virtual assistant of choice for families!
Watch in Sign Language
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