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Alexa for my blind mother?

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Alexa for my blind mother?
« on: February 08, 2018, 11:59:40 am »
Hello - long time lurker, first time poster here.

I am hoping to get some guidance on what I can get Alexa to do for my mother, who recently lost her eyesight.  She is now completely blind, but desperately wants to stay up with the world.

My father is older and not tech savy, so I cannot enlist his help on this.

Since my mother can no longer see, she doesn't have a smartphone, even if she did she can't see to use it.

I can help in setting up and teaching Alexa, and I have Amazon Prime which I would be willing to 'extend' / include my mother, so my questions are:

1) Can Alexa be setup to read the news?
I'm not talking new flashes as I tried that with my mother - too fluffy with no depth for her.  She would like full article readings from news sources such as the Wall St Journal.

2) Can Alexa be setup to respond to searches for on line audio books via Amazon Prime?
I've read that Alexa can read books, but only in response to user selection via a smart device.  Since my mother cannot see or use a touch device - Alexa would need to respond to voice requests to search/find books by topic or author so that my mother could then request that book to be read.

3) Can Alexa make phone calls to land lines or cell numbers without the need of a smart phone?
Again, since she has no smartphone, could I set up Alexa with a phone list with names that Alexa would respond to and place the call?

4) Can Alexa respond to search requests for local service providers, such as "Find local Plumbers" and then place a phone call?

Thank you so much in advance!

Re: Alexa for my blind mother?
« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2018, 01:35:06 pm »
I imagine you have an Alexa devicen and you can try these tasks yourself.  If you don't have one,  now is a good time to get one; especially if you will be setting one up for your mom.  I suggest you start with the lower cost Dot.

Alexa can do quite a few of the tasks, but it is not a robot that can do anything.  The cost of a Dot is minimal and a small price to pay for some useful assistance.  You can set your mom up under your prime account using your smart phone.

My vision is awful, and so bad I cannot drive anymore.I can't see a clock unless on top of it, so I ask Alexa the time, weather, set timers, play TuneIn radio, turn on lights etc often.  Maybe your Dad can read the WSJ to her.

Re: Alexa for my blind mother?
« Reply #2 on: February 08, 2018, 02:59:06 pm »
Alexa for a blind person is an excellent idea.
 There are several different newsfeed channels that you can check out under the "skills" area.
The built-in drop in skill would allow you to communicate easily with each other without the hassles of using a phone.
Smart locks that communicate with Alexa (Schlake Connect series) would provide excellent security and comfort.
Smart thermostats would allow setting temperatures by voice.
There are a wide range of musical options from Amazon itself as well as Pandora, iHeartRadio etc. etc.
The List goes on and on. As suggested by the previous poster, you should get a Dot for yourself to not only familiarize yourself with its capabilities but also for communication purposes.


Re: Alexa for my blind mother?
« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2018, 05:52:39 pm »

1) Can Alexa be setup to read the news?
I'm not talking new flashes as I tried that with my mother - too fluffy with no depth for her.  She would like full article readings from news sources such as the Wall St Journal.

you may be able to find local 24 hour news stations that will give nothing but news.  there are also public radio stations that will read articles from their local newspapers. 

Quote
2) Can Alexa be setup to respond to searches for on line audio books via Amazon Prime?
I've read that Alexa can read books, but only in response to user selection via a smart device.  Since my mother cannot see or use a touch device - Alexa would need to respond to voice requests to search/find books by topic or author so that my mother could then request that book to be read.
you can subscribe to audible books through amazon.  there are also some skills of old time radio shows from around ww2.  they are pretty good.  it is fun listening to some old commercials like blue coal. 

Quote
3) Can Alexa make phone calls to land lines or cell numbers without the need of a smart phone?
Again, since she has no smartphone, could I set up Alexa with a phone list with names that Alexa would respond to and place the call?

when I signed up to calling I used a google voice number and it took contacts from my google contact list. 

Quote
4) Can Alexa respond to search requests for local service providers, such as "Find local Plumbers" and then place a phone call?

alexa is not that good yet.  this would be better suited for google home.  but you can add those numbers in advance to the contact list. 

Re: Alexa for my blind mother?
« Reply #4 on: February 09, 2018, 05:06:32 pm »
Well, for those that replied - thanks.

From the looks of the activity on this forum - it's not very active.

Guess I'll go elsewhere for help.

Re: Alexa for my blind mother?
« Reply #5 on: February 09, 2018, 05:45:35 pm »
Well, for those that replied - thanks.

From the looks of the activity on this forum - it's not very active.

Guess I'll go elsewhere for help.

not sure what you were looking for but you did get help. 

Re: Alexa for my blind mother?
« Reply #6 on: February 09, 2018, 05:55:15 pm »
Well, for those that replied - thanks.

From the looks of the activity on this forum - it's not very active.

Guess I'll go elsewhere for help.

not sure what you were looking for but you did get help.

Kinda, I guess.

For example, I still don't know if Alexa can be read books without the use of a smartphone to make the selection.

Or, can a call list be made w/o the use of a smartphone?  Since my mother is blind she has no Google list of numbers.


Re: Alexa for my blind mother?
« Reply #7 on: February 09, 2018, 06:28:12 pm »
your questions were too general and took it for granted you would do your own research on some of the suggestions.

someone will have to create the phone list for her just as someone will have to setup the echo...common sense.  as I said alexa is not perfect yet so at this time some things will have to be done manually.  alexa still has too many "I don't knows"

as far as reading, you will still have to setup the proper skills to setup the books or accounts but once every thing setup you can tell alexa what you want to hear.   thought that was common sense too.

Re: Alexa for my blind mother?
« Reply #8 on: February 09, 2018, 11:52:43 pm »
The best way to get more answers (and questions to ask) is to have one's own device (Dot) to explore and practice with before getting too involved with getting one for someone else. Sounds like the OP was looking for a quick fix to issues with the mom.

Re: Alexa for my blind mother?
« Reply #9 on: February 11, 2018, 01:48:43 pm »
your questions were too general and took it for granted you would do your own research on some of the suggestions.

someone will have to create the phone list for her just as someone will have to setup the echo...common sense.  as I said alexa is not perfect yet so at this time some things will have to be done manually.  alexa still has too many "I don't knows"

as far as reading, you will still have to setup the proper skills to setup the books or accounts but once every thing setup you can tell alexa what you want to hear.   thought that was common sense too.

Thank you for the add'l information.

I have tried to look some of these things up.  Just about every source is too general (I guess like my questions) in regards to reading books - yes, Alexa can, but specifics regarding HOW to navigate and find specific books and authors is lacking. 

Like I asked before, my mother cannot see, so has no way of visually making a specific book/author selection.  So I was hoping if someone knows if Alexa can respond to a voice command such as "Alexa, find books by (favorite author here)".  And if Alexa will respond with a list.  Then "Alexa, read (book from the list read by Alexa)."

In regards to phone calls, it would seem upon further digging that as of now, Alexa cannot respond to voice commands to place a phone call without a sync'd smartphone.

Perhaps Alexa is not yet ready as of now for skills to help the blind?

Offline jwlv

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Re: Alexa for my blind mother?
« Reply #10 on: February 11, 2018, 05:11:01 pm »
I understand that you want to find out as much as you can before setting up an Echo for your mother.
However, at the price of around $40 for an Echo Dot (even less when on sale), you really ought to get one for yourself and find out as much as you can first hand. After all, you'll be the one setting it up and you'll be the one that will answer all your mother's questions when something doesn't work right. For such a low priced item that can potentially liberate your mother, you'll save yourself a lot of headaches later on if you learn about it with first hand experience.

The Echo is constantly evolving. It's not just set it up one time and it'll work forever. For basic things, it will work forever. But things will change as new features and technologies come about. A year ago, there was no intercom feature, no phone calls, no drop ins, no what time does a particular store open, no whole house music, no voice control of Fire TV, and many more things. And just this week, Alexa can now send SMS/text messages. A year ago, Wemo smart switches did not need a skill to turn on/off lights. Some time a few months ago, things started not to work exactly as expected. There were no announcements, or at least I didn't see any. But all Wemo switches now require a skill to work with many of the new Alexa features (like routines, groups, etc.) If you had installed a Wemo switch for your mom to turn on, say a TV or radio, and then one day it stopped working, you'd be the one that will have the headaches of finding out why. If you had prior knowledge about Alexa skills, how the Wemo app communicates with Alexa, how to reset a Wemo switch, etc. you'd be far better off than to do all these things in the dark.