How is Amazon Alexa empowering people with disabilities?

Do you face any difficulty in walking across the room to switch on the light or fan? Can you read your text messages with ease? Can you do your daily chores without being dependent on any one else? If you can, you might as well consider yourself to be lucky enough, unlike the 2% population of India that is incapable of living their lives independently.

These unfortunate people who constitute this 2% population of the country are incapable of performing tasks which might be seemingly simple for the remaining 98% population. Some of them might not be able to read despite their limitless love for books. Some might be doomed enough to never be able to sooth themselves with music. Some might not be in a position to call for help because they can’t speak while some might have to be dependent on someone else to even move across the hall. 

The technology today has made our lives so easy and comfortable that right from our food to our daily commute, everything is just a click away. The technology has provided us, the lucky ones who comprise of the 98% population of India, with simpler mediums and methods for our simple daily chores. While it has provided the remaining 2% population, the less fortunate ones, with means to live their difficult life with a bit of ease and some degree of independence.

Virtual assistants such as Amazon Alexa have been great tools of this revolutionary change. Amazon now offers an array of features for the virtual assistant. These are provided to assist people with disabilities to interact with their environment and other people with greater ease and comfort.

You would be wondering how can virtual assistances like Alexa could be of use to help the disabled. To start with, we can take the example of Xavier’s Resource Centre for the Visually Challenged (XRCVC). Xavier’s Resource Centre for the Visually Challenged is a body which extends support for blind student across the country. Dr Sam Taraporewala, the executive director of Xavier’s Resource Centre for the Visually Challenged, uses Alexa for a number of purposes like calendar entries, light entertainment, etc.

“As a blind person myself, I am far more comfortable in using an Echo device and asking Alexa to do something like tuning the radio on My Tuner Radio. So you have the whole range of radio stations at your disposal. I also use it for conducting conferences. Scheduling calendar entries, that’s another use… you can just drop a reminder or a calendar note. Beyond this, the whole reminder service is very useful.”, said Dr Sam Taraporewala, the executive head of XRCVC.

“I don’t need to have a kindle or app on my phone. I just ask Alexa to read my Kindle book by mentioning the title of the book,” he further added.

Similarly, Nipun Malhotra, who has arthrogryposis and owns an advocacy firm namely Nipman Foundation also uses Alexa for numerous purposes.

“I think the biggest empowerment that it gives to people with disability is easy access to their smart home technology. Another thing that I love is how it can connect you to adjacent rooms in the same house and you can also connect when you are out of town. It has given me that kind of autonomy that I didn’t have before.”, said Nipun.

The list of disabled people benefiting from Amazon Alexa is quite extensive. Dr Sam Taraporewala and Nipun Malhotra were a few to be named.

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