Amazon Echo: Your Day-to-Day Digital Solution

Smart devices can help to make everyday living that bit easier. One such smart device is the fantastic Amazon Echo. Mark runs us through some ways that the Amazon Echo can be used by people with sight loss, disabilities and health conditions, as well as those who support them.

I don’t know if you have noticed, but I love technology and I love it more when new technology can include everyone – and smart devices do just that!

I’ve been having various discussions about the use of technology with people who understand how technology works but struggle to understand how it can help them in everyday life. I thought I would have a go at describing everyday situations people are working through now with no technology, and then offer a digital solution using Amazon Echo.

The scenario

There are families supporting each other in many ways, with children, siblings and other family members who support them with everyday tasks.

As an example, we might have a parent or grandparent who has just lost their sight, and doesn’t yet have the orientation and mobility skills to go shopping on their own, and is not yet confident using a device to take notes, and is no longer able to handwrite or read their writing.

As a result, a caregiver will need to go to the home to find out what needs to be purchased (either by asking or by looking through the cupboards and the fridge). This exercise might be equally frustrating for both parties – it’s less independence for the person with sight loss, and puts increasing time demands on the family member. Oh, and this process will take two trips: the first trip to collect the list, and the second to go to the supermarket and bring the shopping back.

The solution with technology

There are various ‘virtual assistants’, some better than others. At the time of writing this, Amazon Alexa, which is linked to their Echo device range, is one ofht best, and most popular, out there.

One of Alexa’s thousands of skills is the ‘shopping list’, the ability for the operator to add an item to the shopping list by voice, by simply saying, “Alexa, add bananas to my shopping list.”

Here’s the trick!

With the right set up, the person needing support can use all the device’s features but the family member will be able to view the shopping list remotely from their Amazon Alexa app. This increases the person’s independence as she can now add to her own shopping list, whilst also saving their family member an additional trip, giving them more quality time to spend together.

It also means the person with sight loss can be more spontaneous: they can add to their shopping list right up until their family member goes shopping, and can even check their shopping list to make sure they have put everything they want on it, and even remove items they feel they no longer need.

Using the Reminder Skill

The Reminder Skill is another function that has the potential to utilise in a similar way. I’m a big fan of using Reminders – it’s not that I forget a lot of stuff, it’s so I don’t need to remember ‘everything’, keeping my head as clutter free as possible.

Using the same rationale as before, the family member can help set up Reminders on the Amazon Echo. These might be recurring daily reminders to ‘Take Medication”.

Reminders can also be set up to say that they have a home visit that day. These could be set to go off 30 minutes before their scheduled arrival, so it’s not a surprise – if the person has memory loss, this could be a real benefit.

As with the shopping list, when the ‘Reminder’ sounds on the Amazon device, it would also register on the family member’s mobile phone. If needed, this reminder could then instigate a quick phone call just to check they got the ‘Reminder’ and understood everything.

These examples are just two of the many ways in which voice controlled devices such as the Amazon Echo can help people with sight loss and disabilities, as well as their family or other caregivers. It helps the person with sight loss be more independent and spontaneous, and means the caregiver can be more efficient.

If you’re feeling inspired to get an Amazon Echo device, we have created some videos about home automation and voice controlled devices, which you can view on our YouTube channel.

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