Do you, or does a member of your family experience frequent or infrequent falls? A new device called the Buddi Fall Alarm has been released to the market that might be of interest.
One of its advantages is that it is waterproof and so can be worn in the bath and shower.
It is designed to be worn 24/7 and its sensitivity can be adjusted to suit a user’s particular needs.
The Buddi wrist band recognises when the wearer falls, but the wearer can cancel any alerts, if they can get back up again. Alternatively, the wearer can press the alert button to call for help.
Using the Buddi app, the wearer can create his/her own private group of connections, who can be alerted in the event of a fall. You can also send private messages via the app to help connected people to understand what kind of help is needed. The location of the Buddi can also been seen on the app.
There is a weekly fee for wearers who wish to connect to a monitoring station, but none if only private connections are required to respond to fall alerts.
This appears to be a handy device for people living on their own, and may help to extend that option for some wearers.
The good: waterproof, no weekly/monthly fees if alerts are limited to the wearer’s own chosen connections
The bad: raises challenging questions around privacy due to the GPS functionality
October is AAC (Alternative and Augmentative Communication)
Awareness Month. The goal is to raise awareness of AAC and to promote the many
different ways in which people communicate using communication systems, both
low and high tech. In order to celebrate this, some AAC companies offer
discounts and special promotions. More should be announced in the coming weeks,
and we will update this post to let you know!
Assistiveware will be offering a 50% discount on some of
their most popular apps between the 14th and 16th
Proloquo2Go – a symbol-based acc app, compatible with iPad.
iPod, iPhone and the Apple Watch.
Proloquo4text – a text-based AAC app, again available on the
platforms mentioned above
Keeble – A highly customisable keyboard for iPad, iPod and
iPhone, with word prediction, accommodations for physical and visual
difficulties, and a speak as you type feature.
Pictello – an app for creating visual stories and schedules
for iPad, iPhone and iPod.
My Computer My Way is a free online guide of accessibility
features for computers, tablets and mobile phones. The aim is to provide you
details to make whatever device you’re using easier to use via built-in accessibility
features, browser extensions or via apps that you can install.
It’s been around for quite a number of years and having
revisited the site again recently I am glad to see it has been updated to
current operating systems features. So
whether you need help now with Android Pie, Windows 10 or iOS12 this useful
guide has been updated to include the new built-in accessibility features.
The layout of Accessibility features is divided into four
options include features to help you see and use applications more clearly
accessibility features and information for people who are deaf or hard of
ways to make your keyboard, mouse and mobile device easier to use.
computer adjustments that will make reading writing and using the internet
With just an Android phone, a deaf person or someone who is
hard of hearing can have a conversation with anyone. Live Transcribe is an app that types captions
accurately in the language that’s being spoken. It’s powered by Google’s speech
recognition technology and there are 70 languages to choose from.
Live Transcribe is easy to use, anywhere you have a Wi-Fi or
network connection and it’s free to download.
The video below demonstrates how the app can be used.
According to Dr. Mohammad Objedat, Professor, Gallaudet
“Live Transcribe gives me a more flexible and efficient way to communicate with hearing people. I just love it, it really changed the way I solve my communication problem.”
And what’s next?
Google are currently working on the Live Relay project which
aims to make phone calls easier for individuals who are deaf or non-speaking.
Live Relay uses on-device speech recognition and text-to-speech conversion to allow the phone to listen and speak on the users’ behalf while they type. By offering instant responses and predictive writing suggestions, Smart Reply and Smart Compose will help make typing fast enough to hold phone calls without any significant delays. Follow @googleaccess for updates.
The captioning accuracy is excellent
The not so good: No
Works really well, a valuable tool for individuals who are deaf or hard of
Webcam Face trackers allow full control of mouse functions
without the use of hands. They can be used to access a computer (Windows, Mac),
as well as a tablet or smartphone (Android only at present).
Primary users of these technologies are people with motor
impairments. There are various options
for hands-free control of your mouse on a computer screen such as reflective
dot trackers, lip and chin joysticks, speech recognition or even eye
trackers. Webcam Face trackers are another possible option for hands-free
control of your computer or phone.
Although it may not be as accurate as other hands-free
options, such as wearable sensors, with this approach, you don’t have to wear a
sensor or reflective dot. As you move
your head, the motion is translated to mouse cursor movement by the webcam. However, you do have to maintain a direct
line-of-sight to the computer, and the performance is dependent on lighting
Basic pointing device support on an Android tablet or phone
is possible with EVA
Facial Mouse. This is
available through Google Play. It will allow access to functions of the
mobile device by means of tracking the user’s face, captured through the
At the time of writing, a webcam face tracker is not
available on iOS devices. However, it is
possible to use Switch Control with head gestures to act as switches. For example look left for select, look right
All 5 Webcam Face Trackers listed below have options for
mouse dwell, click and drag lock.
There are two free windows webcam face trackers – Camera
mouse and Enable Viacam. Both work quite
well. For the paid options, SmyleMouse also
tracks facial expressions and has the option of clicking with a smile. ViVo offers integration with leading speech
As there are trial versions for most of these options below,
its best to try them all to really get a feel for it and see which one works
best for you.
Wearable hands-free mice allow full control of mouse functions
without the use of hands. They can be used to access a computer (Windows, Mac,
etc.), as well as a tablet or smartphone (Android, iOS)
Primary users of these technologies are or cervical spinal cord injury.
There are various options for hands-free control of your
mouse on a computer screen such as reflective dot trackers, lip and chin
joysticks, speech recognition or even eye trackers. One other possible
group of devices are wearable hands-free mice. With this approach, you
wear a sensor (usually on your head but can be worn elsewhere if that works
better for you) and as you move, the motion of that sensor controls the mouse
There is no camera or other optical unit involved, so you do
not have to maintain a direct line-of-sight to the computer, and the
performance is independent of lighting conditions.
The GlassOuse and the Zono are wireless, requiring no physical
connection between the sensor unit that you wear and the computer that you are
controlling. They both have perhaps the most thorough and refined designs in
The GlassOuse package
is worn like eyeglasses (but without anything in front of the eye). It weighs about 50g. GlassOuse also supplies
a range of switches that can be used to perform the mouse click such as bite,
puff or a proximity switch.
The Zono is more of a headphone-style mount for its sensor,
and also has several alternative ways to wear the sensor, such as an eyeglass
clip. The Zono can be used with a breath
or puff switch so you can click by blowing lightly on the switch sensor.
The EnPathia and eeZee sensors require that the mouse must
be tilted, not rotated, to move the cursor. So the motion used will be quite
different in the head-controlled case; to move right, you would tilt your right
ear toward your right shoulder, instead of rotating your head to the right.
This is a less intuitive and more difficult movement for many people. Finally, an open-source option is the
Headmouse by Millmore with build instructions available on instructables.com
Some wearable hands-free mice options to consider are
One aspect of modern technological life that might help us to keep some faith in humanity are the comprehensive assistive technologies that are built into, or free to download for mobile computing devices. Accessibility features, as they are loosely called, are a range of tools designed to support non-standard users of the technology. If you can’t see the screen very well you can magnify text and icons (1) or use high contrast (2). If you can’t see the screen at all you can have the content read back to you using a screen-reader (3). There are options to support touch input (4, 5) and options to use devices hands free (6). Finally there also some supports for deaf and hard of hearing (HoH) people like the ability to switch to mono audio or visual of haptic alternatives to audio based information.
their mobile operating system iOS Apple do accessibility REALLY well and this is
reflected in the numbers. In the 2018 WebAim Survey of Low
Vision users there were over 3 times
as many iOS users as Android users. That is almost the exact reverse of the
general population (3 to 1 in favour of Android). For those with Motor Difficulties it
was less significant but iOS was still favoured.
So what are Apple doing right? Well obviously, first and foremost, the credit would have to go to their developers and designers for producing such innovative and well implemented tools. But Google and other Android developers are also producing some great AT, often highlighting some noticeable gaps in iOS accessibility. Voice Access, EVA Facial Mouse and basic pointing device support are some examples, although these are gaps that will soon be filled if reports of coming features to iOS 13 are to be believed.
Rather than being just about the tools it is as much, if not more, about awareness of those tools: where to find them, how they work. In every Apple mobile device you go to Settings>General>Accessibility and you will have Vision (1, 2, 3), Interaction (4, 5, 6) and Hearing settings. I’m deliberately not naming these settings here so that you can play a little game with yourself and see if you know what they are. I suspect most readers of this blog will get 6 from 6, which should help make my point. You can check your answers at the bottom of the post 🙂 This was always the problem with Android devices. Where Apple iOS accessibility is like a tool belt, Android accessibility is like a big bag. There is probably more in there but you have to find it first. This isn’t Google’s fault, they make great accessibility features. It’s more a result of the open nature of Android. Apple make their own hardware and iOS is designed specifically for that hardware. It’s much more locked down. Android is an open operating system and as such it depends on the hardware manufactured how accessibility is implemented. This has been slowly improving in recent years but Google’s move to bundle all their accessibility features into the Android Accessibility Suite last year meant a huge leap forward in Android accessibility.
What’s in Android Accessibility Suite?
Use this large on-screen menu to control gestures, hardware buttons, navigation, and more. A similar idea to Assistive Touch on iOS. If you are a Samsung Android user it is similar (but not as good in my opinion) as the Assistant Menu already built in.
Select to Speak
Select something on your screen or point your camera at an image to hear text spoken. This is a great feature for people with low vision or a literacy difficulty. It will read the text on screen when required without being always on like a screen reader. A similar feature was available inbuilt in Samsung devices before inexplicably disappearing with the last Android update. The “point your camera at an image to hear text spoken” claim had me intrigued. Optical Character Recognition like that found in Office Lens or SeeingAI built into the regular camera could be extremely useful. Unfortunately I have been unable to get this feature to work on my Samsung Galaxy A8. Even when selecting a headline in a newspaper I’m told “no text found at that location”.
Interact with your Android device using one or more switches or a keyboard instead of the touch screen. Switch Access on Android has always been the poor cousin to Switch Control on iOS but is improving all the time.
TalkBack Screen Reader
Get spoken, audible, and vibration feedback as you use your device. Googles mobile screen reader has been around for a while, while apparently, like Switch Access it’s improving, I’ve yet to meet anybody who actually uses it full time.
So to summarise, as well as adding features that may have been missing on your particular “flavour” of Android, this suite standardises the accessibility experience and makes it more visible. Also another exciting aspect of these features being bundled in this way is their availability for media boxes. Android is a hugely popular OS for TV and entertainment but what is true of mobile device manufacturer is doubly so of Android Box manufacturers where it is still very much the Wild West. If you are in the market for an Android Box and Accessibility is important make sure it’s running Android Version 6 or later so you can install this suite and take advantage of these features.
Since the year 2000 Enable Ireland’s Assistive Technology (AT) training service have run a Foundations in AT (5 ECTS) course certified by the Technological University Dublin (TUD). Those of you reading this post will most likely be familiar with AT and what a broad and rapidly evolving area it is. While overall the direction AT has taken over the last decade is positive and exciting, it has also become a more challenging area to work in. As a result, the importance and value of the Foundations in AT course has also increased and this is both reflected in, and as a direct result of the calibre of course participant we’ve had in recent years. The wealth of experience brought by participants each year helps the course evolve and develop, filling in gaps and offering new directions for technology to support people in areas beyond primary needs such as communication, access and daily living. Last month we began what is a new effort on our part to share with a wider audience some of the excellent work produced by Foundations in AT course participants with Shaun Neary’s post Accessible Photography – Photo Editing with Adobe Lightroom & the Grid 3. This month we will look at another area of creativity, music.
Alex Lucas enrolled in the 2018 Foundations in AT course. As soon as we learned about his background and experience, we knew that his involvement in the course was an opportunity for us to learn more about accessible music technology and practice. Alex is an academic (PhD research student in Queen’s University Belfast), a maker, a musician, a developer and a product designer. Before returning to studies, he had gained 10 years’ experience working in mainstream music technology with big name companies like Focusrite and Novation. In Queens he is currently researching “Supporting the Sustained Use of Bespoke Assistive Music Technology” and is part of the Research Group: Performance Without Barriers. He also works with Drake Music Northern Ireland.
We could be accused of having underutilised Alex, but our suggestion for his project was to produce a resource that would act as an introduction to people new to the area of accessible music technology. Alex chose to focus on the mainstream Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) application Ableton Live and Switch input. As well as the project document (download link below) he released 5 really excellent tutorial videos on YouTube, the first of which is embedded here.
Alex kindly agreed to contribute to this post so we asked him why he chose to focus on Ableton, to tell us a bit more about his work in inclusive music and a little about the research he is currently undertaking at Queens. Over to you Alex..
There are many software applications available for computer-based music production. Ableton Live is arguably one of the most popular DAWs. When first released in 2001, Ableton Live set itself apart from other DAWs through a unique feature called Session View.
Session View is a mode of operation which can be thought of as a musical sketchbook providing composers with an intuitive way to create loop-based music; a feature which is particularly useful when creating electronic music. When combined with Ableton Live’s built-in virtual musical instruments and devices for creating and modifying musical ideas, we find ourselves with a rich toolset for composing music in inclusive settings.
How this works with groups?
Music connects people; we see this often when conducting group-based inclusive music workshops, making work of this kind essential to Drake Music NI. There could be up to twelve participants of mixed abilities in a typical Drake workshop. As Access Music Tutors, we approach group workshops by first speaking to each participant in turn to identify their creative goals. One individual may have an interest in playing distorted synthesiser bass sounds, while another may prefer the softer sound of a real instrument such as a piano. Knowledge of an individual’s creative goals and their access requirements is used to select an appropriate device for the participant to use to control a virtual instrument within Ableton Live.
In addition to the Access Switches described in the video’s mentioned above, Drake Music also uses commercially available assistive music technologies such as Soundbeam and Skoog, and mainstream MIDI controllers such as the Novation Launchpad. It’s possible to connect several of these devices to a single computer running Live.
Together, the group make core musical decisions; i.e. genre, tempo, musical key. The workshop will proceed in one of two ways, either we jam together, or record each participant in turn, building up a composition gradually using overdubbing techniques.
OMHI – One-Handed Musical Instrument Trust
There are a handful of other organisations within the UK, working towards providing inclusion in music. One notable organisation is the One-Handed Musical Instrument Trust (https://www.ohmi.org.uk/). Many traditional musical instruments are designed in such a way that they place a fundamental requirement on the musician; they must have two fully functional hands. This assumption results in the exclusion of some individuals from learning a traditional musical instrument. Furthermore, in some cases, accomplished musicians are not able to return to their instrument after losing the function of a hand due to illness or an accident. OHMI aims to address this shortcoming by running an annual competition which invites instrument designers to adapt traditional musical instruments to be played by one hand only. Many fantastic designs are submitted to OHMI each year. I’m particularly impressed by David Nabb’s Toggle-Key Saxophone (https://www.unk.edu/academics/music/_files/toggle-key-system.pdf) which retains all of the functionality of a standard saxophone while being playable by one hand.
Whilst OHMI primarily focuses on the adaptation of traditional acoustic instruments for inclusion and accessibility; my research centres on the challenges faced by disabled musicians in the long-term use of custom-made digital musical instruments.
In partnership with a disabled musician named Eoin at Drake Music NI, together we’ve been designing a digital musical instrument tailored towards Eoin’s unique abilities. Eoin has a strong desire to play electric guitar but as Eoin cannot hold a guitar, due to its physical characteristics, he has been unable to up until this point.
Using a motion sensor and an access switch, coupled with a Raspberry Pi embedded computer, Eoin is now able to play rudimentary guitar sounds using the movements of his right arm. We’ve tested several prototypes and are now in the process of assembling the instrument for Eoin to use both during Drake music workshops and at home.
As a musician, Eoin is the primary user of the device; however we’ve also been considering Eoin’s primary carer, his father Peter, as a secondary user. We’ve designed a high-level interface for Peter to use, hopefully allowing him to easily set-up the device for Eoin to use at home. We’re particularly interested in the longevity of the device, whether or not it’s viable for Eoin and Peter to use independently. Obsolescence can be a problem for assistive technology in general. Our current assumption is that obsolescence may be an issue with custom-made accessible digital musical instruments but hope, through this research to discover useful mitigation strategies.
A hands-free mouse allows you to perform computer mouse
functions without using your hands. There are various options for hands free
control of your mouse on a computer screen such as reflective dot trackers,
wearable sensors, speech recognition or even eye trackers. One other
possible group of devices are Lip and chin Joysticks.
These products are designed specifically for users with
physical disabilities. They are typically USB Plug and Play, which means they
will work with any computer platform that supports USB mice, including Windows,
Mac OS X, Linux, and Android. All can be customized using the built-in mouse
settings in the operating system, while some will also include setup software
for further customization.
To activate the mouse buttons. The IntegraMouse+, Jouse3,
and QuadJoy incorporate a sip/puff switch into their joystick, so that a sip
action clicks one mouse button, and a puff action clicks the other. Other
options are switches, the BJOY Chin has two circular switch pads, one on either
side of the joystick, which can be pressed using the chin or cheek. And the
TetraMouse has a second joystick that is devoted to button actions, right next
to the joystick for cursor control. Low cost options are the Tobias’ mouse and the
Flipmouse. This are open source hardware
and software projects with documented instruction on how to build and 3D
Print. The user moves the cursor by
using a mouthpiece. The right mouse button is operated by pushing the
mouthpiece towards the case. The left mouse button is emulated by a sensor that
recognizes if the user sucks air through it.
Some Lip and chin Joysticks options to consider are
Over the course of history there have always been single named women who have influenced our lives and Culture: Cleopatra, Maggie, Madonna, and now it’s the turn of Alexa! I have been curious and intrigued by the benefits of technological assistants with regards my disability, so I was very excited when Enable Ireland gave me an opportunity to try out Alexa in the form of the Amazon Echo.
How easy is it to get the Echo up and running?
initial setup of the Amazon Echo is very simple to carry out. You need to
download the Amazon Alexa app to your smartphone (get used to downloading apps
on your phone), the app will search for the device, the app will then connect
to the device through the devices own Wi-Fi signal, you then connect your
device to your home broadband, and hey presto within a few minutes your Amazon
Echo is up and running.
What can Alexa do on its own?
initial benefits of the Amazon Echo for a person with a disability are very
limited. You can ask Alexa what the weather will be like, what time it is, to
set reminders, and some other quirky less useful questions: “Alexa, tell
me a joke”, “What’s the capital of Finland?”, or more randomly
“Alexa, beatbox for me”.
the Alexa app you can enable other skills to assist you in your daily
activities. If you are into music you can add 🙂 your Spotify profile to Alexa,
this is very simple to do if you can use a smartphone. Alexa will then play
your playlists through its impressive speakers. This is very handy, even for
someone who is not into music much, as it means I don’t need to listen to music
through my basic phone speakers nor do I have to call someone to change a cd in
my stereo. It is great for podcasts as well, though as Alexa sometimes has
difficulty understanding people you might be better off setting up a playlist
through your Spotify app first if any of your favourite podcasts have quirky
names like my favourite Arsenal podcast Arsecast by Arseblog!
you have vision impairment, have difficulty holding a book, or you just like
Audiobooks you can quickly add your Audible account too, tilt back in your
chair and listen to your favourite book or a new release. It can also update
you with the latest news, traffic, and weather for your area as well.
you have trouble with your memory because of a head injury, or you just have a
head like a sieve as I do, the reminders and timers could be very useful. I
normally add reminders to my phone as I can’t write them down but just
immediately calling them out is useful as sometimes I go to add them to my
phone and get distracted by Twitter and the likes. The timers are useful if
you’re cooking and the chicken needs just five minutes more.
What can Alexa do using IOT – The Internet Of Things?
For someone with a physical disability this is where it
really sparked my interest. I struggle with some aspects of technology and to
physically control my environment so I thought I would benefit from Alexa and
Smart WeMo Plug
Firstly I decided to set up the lamp in my sitting room. In order to use Alexa to switch on your light you either need a smart plug or you need smart bulbs and a Wi-Fi hub. Enable Ireland had also provided me with a WeMo smart plug in this instance. The setup for the WeMo smart plug was very similar to the initial setup of the Amazon Echo: download the app, connect to the devices own Wi-Fi, and connect the device to your home broadband.
Once you have that done you can control the lamp directly
from your smartphone only if you wanted, in order to connect it to the Alexa
you need to go back to the Alexa app and pair the Alexa with the WeMo smart
plug from there.
Overall it is very simple System and process and once you
have it up all you have to do is say “Alexa, turn on the lamp”. This
was a complete success and over the time I had the devices this is the one that
proved most simple to use and most consistent. It was lovely if I was on my own
for a little while coming toward evening, I could give that simple command and
“Let there be light!”
The other devices I had to connect to the Echo were related to the TV. I use an Amazon fire stick to play games on my TV and also to watch Netflix. I knew from watching YouTube videos that you could pair your Amazon Echo with your fire stick and use Alexa to open Netflix and play your movies and shows.
Unfortunately this was not so easy to carry out. It seemed simple at first, get your Alexa device to scan your Wi-Fi for compatible devices and when you see the Firestick click connect. Unfortunately this is where I ran into some problems. In order to get the Alexa to carry out these procedures I had to enable its TV skills through the app. I had to do something similar to set up my Spotify account so I wasn’t too worried at first. Frustratingly when I went into the app to enable that TV skill the screen went blank and gave me no options to enable it. After numerous attempts to carry this out and searches on the internet to find a solution I eventually contacted Amazon’s online support and having gone through three advisors I found the solution by enabling it through my laptop and my Amazon account on the Desktop site. Phew!
The results of that is I can come into sitting room in the
morning, with the TV turned off, and ask Alexa to open Netflix. If you know the
name of the movie or show you want to watch you can ask Alexa to open it
directly. You can play, pause and fast forward or rewind whatever you are
watching. This has been very helpful for me is the remote for my fire stick is
tiny and the buttons are incredibly difficult to press. If you are a movie buff
and have difficulties using small remotes then this solution is probably worth
all the hassle it took to set it up in the first place!
In the package from Enable Ireland there was also a Logitech
Harmony Hub. At first, I had no idea what it was. I had never heard of it
before. A bit of Googling revealed that it is a universal remote control. A bit
of YouTubing revealed that it could be paired with Alexa to turn on and control
a whole host of electronic devices including your TV, Stereo System, or Sky
This is a complex setup. You set up the Harmony hub much the same way as you do the other devices. So again that means you need to download another app to connect it to your Wi-Fi, I hope you have enough space on your smartphone! Once it is set up and ready to go you need to use the Alexa app to enable the Harmony Hub skill so Alexa can communicate with the Harmony Hub. Now use the Harmony App to scan for smart devices that may be on your Wi-Fi already, like a smart TV. If you have something that is not smart like my Sky box, you simply search in the app for the product and add it to your list of devices. Right, now that you have your devices listed and the Hub and Alexa can talk to one another what can you tell them to do?
Using the Harmony app you can set up a range of
“activities”. These are relatively easy to set up as you follow a step by step
process through the app. Quite quickly I had it set up so that I could tell
Alexa to turn on the TV, it would turn on the TV and set it to the Sky TV
extension immediately. I also set it up so I could increase and decrease the
volume of the TV and I could change the ordinary terrestrial channels on the TV.
I have seen that you can change channels on your Sky box and set “favourite
channels” to tune to quickly but, frustratingly, while I can do that through
the Harmony app on my phone I haven’t been able to do that using Alexa despite
numerous and persistent attempts. Apparently, it is possible if you set an “activity”
for each individual channel but life is too short!
If you are technically proficient enough and you have a big
enough budget there are whole host of other devices you could use with the
Alexa to smarten up your home whether it is to control your heating or even to
unlock your door!
Are there Privacy Issues?
There are some concerns about privacy and the Alexa. Some of
the stories surrounding this issue I’m sure have been exaggerated for headlines
but there is a basis to some of the concern too with Amazon admitting that
staff listen to people’s interactions with Alexa (I think they’ll get a laugh
from some of my frustrated interactions where Alexa was called everything under
the sun while I tried in vain to control the Sky box via Alexa).
download the Alexa app. This sort of sets the tone for what to expect with
I know from my experience with the Alexa that there have
been some strange happenings. During conversations in the same room as the
Alexa the blue light that indicates Alexa is listening has come on. On another
occasion Alexa has piped up with search results that were not asked for in the
middle of a conversation. Nothing too sinister I’m sure but something I’m
personally not too comfortable with.
It’s up to you whether you’re willing to give up that sense
of personal privacy in place of the benefits Alexa provides.
I was very excited to try out the Amazon Echo and Alexa. I
felt this was my opportunity to finally make up my mind on whether to purchase
one or not, a decision I had been debating over for some time.
Alexa promises so much to help me with my physical
disability. Overall in this aspect it did live up to expectation. It was
frustrating that I couldn’t manage to set it up to operate my Sky box but I was
able to set it up to use most the functions on my TV, and the Alexa in
conjunction with the WeMo plug gave the most satisfying and consistent function
of switching my sitting room lamp on and off. If I were to purchase an Echo I
would consider investing further into the other devices that could do as the
WeMo plug did.
The other aspects of the Echo were less beneficial to me as
they didn’t involve improving my access to my physical environment. That does
not take away from the fact that they could be hugely beneficial for someone
with a different disability such as a sensory disability: reminders, timers,
your Spotify, and your Audiobooks through Alexa would simplify so many parts of
a person’s life.
For someone with a high level disability or someone who has difficulty using a smartphone the set up process of the Echo itself may be a little complex. The set up process for some of the “activities” on the Harmony Hub would take the most seasoned of smartphone users to the point where they just give up (ie. me 🙂
The initial cost of the Amazon Echo is very affordable.
However, if someone with a disability wishes to use the Echo and Alexa to its
full potential to make their lives more independent then they will need to
spend a lot more. A quick Google suggested that a Wi-Fi plug similar to the
WeMo plug is €22 each while a Harmony Hub remote is available for approximately
€120. So if you’re hoping to live in a completely smart home it’s going to be
difficult if you’re sole source of income is your Disability Allowance.
All that being said, that decision I have been debating over
for some time, have I made it? Well, in a sense I have. I am fortunate to be
able to use my mobile phone without much difficulty so in the short term I
think I will get a Harmony Hub which will allow me to carry out most of what
Alexa has been doing for me on this trial but through my phone and without the
worry of Amazon employees listening in on me. In the medium to long term I’m sure
I’ll revisit Alexa or even the Google equivalent!