Echo & Alexa User Discussions and Support Forums

General Category => Echo Assistive Technologies => Topic started by: Jeff29 on November 18, 2017, 01:44:13 am

Title: If you are blind, paraplegic or planning a purchase for someone
Post by: Jeff29 on November 18, 2017, 01:44:13 am
If you are blind and listening to this via text-to-speech or if you are thinking about purchasing an Amazon device for someone that is blind or paraplegic here is something I think you might want to know:

1.  Amazon devices can pair, connect, and use Bluetooth speakers for all audio.
2.  Amazon devices cannot switch back to the internal speaker via verbal command.
3.  Once connected if the Bluetooth speaker loses power or is shut off the Amazon device (thanks to a recent update) no longer automatically switches back to the internal speaker requiring someone see the visual indicators and act to resolve.  If you're blind or paraplegic this is unacceptable.
4.  Audio controls are designed in the worst way for people that are impaired


Additional information:
Once you connect an Amazon device to Bluetooth speakers you can issue the command "Alexa disconnect" and hear Alexa announce on the internal speaker Bluetooth audio is disconnected at which point Alexa immediately reconnects to the Bluetooth speakers (assuming they are still powered on).  While automatically connecting to a paired device is "normal behavior" in this specific case (switching back to the internal speaker) and especially with regards to Assistive Technology it is unacceptable and easily remedied.  What makes this a significant issue is that in the case of the Bluetooth speaker losing power Amazon devices were recently modified to ignore the internal speaker and continue channeling audio out the now-defunct Bluetooth connection leaving no audio output for the Alexa UI and only flashing lights indicating Alexa is responding but you aren't hearing the audio.  This obviously isn't a problem for people that can see.  Note it is highly likely a paraplegic would be significantly challenged or simply unable to resolve this specific issue given resolution is only available via physical access to the Bluetooth device or access to the Alexa App or a web browser.

Audio controls:
. There's no discrete control.
What you get:
a.  Tactile volume control -- find the device and find the right spot to press (0-40 presses of resolution).
b.  Verbal volume control that is extremely limited.  Only 10 levels of resolution discretely verbally addressable.  For anything more its back to tactile volume control.
. There are only two discrete channels where volume is exposed for any control
Channel 1:  Everything except the alarm
Channel 2:  The alarm
. If you want to set the UI at a constant level you cannot.  This is surprising since so many other types of audio services offer discrete UI controls and it is significantly more important for the visually impaired.
. If you are visually impaired you can easily issue commands to increase or decrease the volume and Alexa accepts a range of verbiage to this effect which will move the volume a single step on the 0-10 scale of resolution.
. If you have sensitive ears or are visually impaired (and one might even think it would feel like a punishment to someone visually impaired) you cannot verbally address the same level of resolution for volume (11 verbal options 0-10) vs. someone that can easily see and press the button accessing 4x the resolution.  Personally I think it's idiotic to have 40 manual steps sequentially accessed vs 40 discrete verbal options with 10 manual steps.

An important point--being visually impaired still means you can find the button.  This isn't an option if you are paraplegic although you may have the option to access the Alexa App or a browser with what anyone should expect to be an added layer of difficulty.  Why would Amazon choose to promote a solution to make resolution difficult (or worse--potentially eliminate resolution for a paraplegic) when you should just be able to say "Alexa switch to internal speaker" or "Alexa disconnect" or access volume control with "Alexa level 38" and get something much closer to your desired volume level than the current comparable option of level 9 or 10 (2 steps above or below the setting of 38).

I have provided technical details to amazon via https://www.amazonforum.com/forums/devices/echo-alexa/2246-speaker-selection-doesnt-work-bluetooth-not (https://www.amazonforum.com/forums/devices/echo-alexa/2246-speaker-selection-doesnt-work-bluetooth-not) with hopes they rectify this issue to provide better support for everyone.