The RNIB in the UK has worked with Amazon to provide information about living with sight loss through its voice assistant.
Alexa users will now instantly be able to hear RNIB-verified information using voice commands such as:
- “Alexa, how do I register as sight impaired or severely sight impaired?”
- “Alexa, what assistive technology do blind people use?”
- “Alexa, what should I do if I think I’m losing my sight?”
Here’s a short video explaining how the tool will help people with visual impairments.
It is hoped the tool will help improve the accessibility of online information for more than two million people across the UK who are living with sight loss, after RNIB research showed that vision impairment remains a major barrier to accessing the internet.
Dolly McLoughlin, aged 71, is a retired administrative assistant from Harrow. She started to lose her sight in her forties due to retinitis pigmentosa, which is a genetic disorder that causes gradual loss of vision. She finds it difficult to keep up to date with developments in technology and says researching on the internet is particularly challenging for her. She said: “While I was working, there was always someone there that could help, like the IT department, but since retiring it’s been difficult to keep up with how quickly technology changes. I can use emails and documents, but I find navigating the internet with a screen reader very difficult indeed. Websites are all designed differently, which makes it hard to find what I am looking for. I’m no good at looking up specific information or ordering things. I have to get someone to help me.
“Alexa is different. I can just ask her questions and she will tell me the answer. Listening to music, the radio and my audio books through Alexa is wonderful, but getting direct information – like a short biography of an author, or the synopsis of a play I’m interested in – is priceless. It’s fantastic that organisations like RNIB are starting to use it in this way and I hope more companies will follow.”
According to the charity, more than half of blind and partially sighted people (54 per cent) claim their sight loss is a barrier to using the internet, and nearly two thirds (61 per cent) report feeling unable to make the most of new technology, with many citing accessibility issues.
I am an absolute geek who loves technology. I also happen to be severely sight impaired and that has meant my journey with new technology has been challenging. What I've learnt is what I want to share with others and I do that on air in the UK on RNIB Connect Radio's weekly Tech Talk radio show and podcast, and on AMI-Audio's Double Tap Canada radio show and podcast. I'm also a very lucky husband and the owner of the world's coolest dog!