Over the past couple of years, I’ve briefly covered the Amazon Echo. In sum, the Amazon Echo (aka “Alexa”) is a hands-free personal assistant. When I first wrote about the Echo, I had very limited knowledge on how it could really benefit individuals with special needs. I have only recently discovered some cool features and tricks which demonstrate the product’s potential!
Amazon Echo Overview:
If you’re unfamiliar with Amazon Echo, here’s a quick overview of (a few things) Alexa can do:
- Play virtually any song just by asking. Music plays from Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, and more!
- Alexa, play some meditation tracks.
- Hey Alexa, play some Adele.
- Alexa, play the Hamilton original cast recording.
- Alexa, play playlist _________.
- The Echo will fill the room with immersive, 360º omni-directional audio.
- Ask Alexa general inquiries and she’ll be able to help you hands-free!
- Alexa, what’s the weather?
- Alexa, what time is it?
- The Echo is always getting smarter and adding new features, plus thousands of skills (e.g. Uber, Domino’s, etc.)
5 Ways to Utilize Your Amazon Echo:
If you’re like me, you’re curious about how the Echo can benefit individuals with disabilities. The first obvious feature is the fact the assistant can be used entirely hands-free, which is great for individuals with limited mobility, visual impairments, and more. The following list includes different skills and ways to get the most out of your Amazon Echo.
1. Ask My Buddy:
Forgive my ignorance, as I previously didn’t know about the thousands of skills available through Amazon Echo. One of these skills is Ask My Buddy, which is free to enable and can be a lifesaver for countless individuals. In short, once it’s set up and you’ve fallen or need help, you’ll be able to simply say, “Alexa, Ask My Buddy to alert YourContact,” or “Alexa, Ask My Buddy to everyone.” This is an incredible solution for individuals who live alone.
The alerts will automatically be sent to your designated contacts, notifying them to check on you immediately. They can be sent via text message/SMS, email, and even a voice phone call. Please note this is not a substitute for 911, but rather an additional tool “offering the security of knowing help is just one shout away.”
2. Control Your Smart Home:
Smart home appliances are ever growing, as is their potential for individuals with disabilities. Echo pairs with devices such as thermostats, switches, lights, and more. To view the full list of compatible smart home solutions, click here. Once Alexa’s paired to the hubs and appliances, you’ll be able to simply state, “Alexa, turn on the lights” and more.
3. Listen to Audiobooks with Audible:
Echo’s integration with Audible makes a great entertainment feature for the visually impaired and more. With Audible, users will be able to listen to any audiobook they have in their Audible library. (Note: Audible is free to try for 30 days, then will be $14.95/month.)
- Alexa, play audiobook _______.
- Hey Alexa, go back (this will rewind book by 30 seconds.)
- Alexa, stop reading the book in 30 minutes (ideal for when you’re going to sleep.)
4. Verbally AAC App:
If you or a loved one are unable to speak, you can also communicate via an AAC app such as Verbally. Verbally is an ideal solution as it is easy-to-use and can be used “right out of the gate. There is no need to learn grids, import photos, or spend hours customizing.”
How can it be beneficial for Amazon Echo? Well, if you purchase the premium app, you’ll be able to create and save all of your most commonly used phrases and organize them in your own way. This way, Alexa’s commands are readily available at the tap of a finger!
5. Control Your TV with Logitech Harmony:
One of the most common inquiries I’ve heard is, “Can Alexa control my TV?” After some quick research, I stumbled upon Logitech Harmony. If you pair Alexa with Logitech Harmony Elite, Companion, Harmony Hub, or any Logitech Harmony hub-based product, you’ll be able to surf channels, turn on Netflix, and much more!
To learn more about how to pair the Echo with Harmony, click here.