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Amazon Brings Popular Tap To Alexa Accessibility Feature To Newly-Refreshed Fire Tablets & More Breaking News




Coincident with their announcement of new Fire tablets, Seattle-based Amazon this week also announced significant updates to its accessibility feature called Tap to Alexa that was heretofore available only on Echo Show devices.

“We brought Tap to Alexa to Fire tablets, along with offerings like Text to Speech, to make it easier for more people to access smart home technology,” Juliana Tarpey, senior product manager for Alexa for Everyone, said in a statement for .... “After setting up their devices, customers can directly ask Alexa, with just a tap, to play their favorite TV show, turn on the lights, or help them communicate with friends and loved ones. It may seem simple, and it is—it provides simpler access to Alexa’s benefits to help support all our customers.”

Tap to Alexa is meant for people who cannot speak well or at all to use Amazon’s doyenne of digital assistants like anyone else. Additionally, Tap to Alexa can be helpful for those who stutter who may prefer not to use their voice to interact with Alexa. According to the American Speech Language Hearing Association, it’s estimated some two million struggle with a “significant expressive language impairment.” Thus, Tap to Alexa is an AAC solution not dissimilar to offerings from indie software development shops like the Netherlands-based AssistiveWare.

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The marquee update to Tap to Alexa announced on Wednesday is users are now able to pair the feature with external switches. This works similarly in concept to Apple’s longstanding Switch Control functionality, whereby third-party switches—which are essentially giant hardware buttons—can be used to control a computer’s UI if a person has speech and/or motor delays such that they can’t touch a screen. There’s also a Text to Speech option with which a person can type a command or query and have it read aloud to them. All told, both features are designed to make common actions like asking Alexa to set a timer or alarm or play music more accessible to those who have limited speaking ability or are non-verbal altogether.

It’s important to note expressive language, as the name implies, refers to the ability to form language. Its opposite is receptive language, which is the ability to comprehend language. Where “I’m putting the Fire tablet on the table” is an expressive, declarative statement, saying “Give me the Fire tablet” is a directive from another person that must be understood to be performed correctly.

Amazon noted in the blog post the company’s Alexa for Everyone group closely collaborated with the folks at the Atlanta-based United Spinal Association in developing Tap to Alexa. The latter’s feedback played an instrumental role in building the software for the new tablets, Amazon said.

The Association is deeply appreciative of the work done with Amazon. “By actively engaging with Amazon’s Alexa for Everyone team, we are providing opportunities for United Spinal members who are passionate about technology to work directly with design teams on accessibility innovations that will fuel their independence,” Adina Bradshaw, vice president of Tech Access at United Spinal, said in a statement for .... “It is a rewarding process for everyone involved.”

Tap to Alexa on Fire tablets is available now in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan.

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