Amazon teams up with Guide Dogs to launch new Alexa program for blind and low vision community

September 12, 2023
Abby sitting at her desk in front of a laptop

Guide Dogs Clients are now able to use Amazon’s Alexa to move through life at home more safely and independently after a successful pilot program.

Partnering with Amazon, Guide Dogs has developed a custom Alexa Skill which is now being rolled out and promises to open new avenues for people with blindness or low vision at home.

Echo Dots are now being supplied to Clients, allowing them to not only listen to Guide Dogs newsletters using Amazon Link, but also add devices like robotic vacuums and doorbells to automate tasks such as cleaning and answering the front door.

One of those clients is Abby and her Guide Dog Duke.

“Now that I have an Echo Dot, I’m using Alexa for everything,” Abby said.

“I really like listening to the latest Guide Dogs newsletter, using it for shopping, for example, I can add things like Dentastix to my cart really easily through Alexa.

“I’m excited to be exploring more home automation options too.”

One of those options is using Alexa to activate a robot vacuum to clean up pet hair, while another is using a Furbo treat dispenser, which is proving to be Duke’s favourite feature.

For Gavan, his Guide Dog Tippy and former Guide Dog Zach, Alexa offers the security of being able to communicate with visitors at the front door without having to open it, as well as the ability to turn on the coffee machine from the comfort of his own bed.

He believes Alexa could prove a valuable empowerment tool for people with blind and low vision.

“I can see the biggest benefits of Alexa for the less digitally literate people in our community,” he said.

“While I’m used to navigating my way through accessibility features in technology, for someone that has not used tech regularly and especially for those in the low vision and blind community, Alexa can be a huge help.

“They can use just their voice to access the world and boost their sense of community.”

Guide Dogs Chief Technology Officer Glenn Mason said using Alexa was the first step in realizing the potential of voice as a communications channel for people who are blind or have low vision.

“Partnering with the Amazon team, Guide Dogs has delivered a new capability for the blind and low vision community that enables the community to stay up to date with newsletters, talk with our team and learn about our services all by just having a conversation with Alexa,” says Guide Dogs NSW/ACT Chief Technology Officer, Glenn Mason.

“We are continuing to invest in the platform and are now working on new capabilities to further improve the customer experience for our Clients.”

Amazon Alexa Country Manager Kate Burleigh said it had been a pleasure to work with Guide Dogs on the initiative.

“We know Alexa is a great tool for every user, but we’re especially proud of our Alexa for Everyone work which maximises accessibility,” she said.

“Every partnership helps us to learn more about the needs of different communities and further enhance what Alexa has to offer.”