Ahead Of International Day Of People With Disabilities, Amazon Spotlights ‘8 Most Helpful Accessibility Features’

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Not to be outshone by Apple, Amazon on Thursday is doing its part to commemorate this weekend’s International Day of People with Disabilities by highlighting a slew of features for Alexa, Fire TV, and Kindle meant to make the products more accessible to disabled people.

Deb Landau wrote about the features in a blog post published today.

Landau, who writes the company has been “working to make its products accessible to everyone for a decade,” cites data from the World Health Organization that some 1.3 billion people worldwide live with some sort of disability. Disabled people, yours truly very much included, make up a not-insignificant portion of the population at 20%. It makes the disability community the largest marginalized and underrepresented group on the planet—and the easiest one to join, at anytime no less.

Elsewhere, Landau highlights features such as Call Translation, which leverages AI technology within Alexa to transcribe video calls for the Deaf and hard-of-hearing. The captioning happens in real-time, and Amazon notes the feature can also be beneficial, accessibility-wise, for someone who may speak a different language for instance. In similar veins, Dialogue Boost and audio descriptions on Fire TV make dialogue more intelligible and easier to hear, while audio descriptions make visual content more accessible to people who are Blind and low vision. Also mentioned in the piece are the VoiceView screen reader, Screen Magnifier on Fire TV, Eye Gaze, Voice Access, and Kindle Reading Ruler.

Amazon has a video on YouTube on audio descriptions on Prime Video.

It’s worth mentioning Amazon’s accessibility prowess goes beyond software. A shining example is its Fire TV Cube streaming box, which can be thought of as a souped-up Echo Show of sorts. With the Cube, Alexa can power on elements of one’s home theater setup, as well as change channels in apps like YouTube TV. All told, using one’s voice to power on and off A/V gear and the like can prove to be far more accessible than manually switching inputs or whatnot. Rather than deal with the friction of using visual and/motor skills one may not have, Alexa’s voice-first UI paradigm does all the grunt work. Whether someone likes the Fire TV software is another matter; the salient point here is only that there are non-trivial advantages to choosing Amazon’s products. What’s more, this point about the Cube also serves as yet another important lesson that accessibility’s relevance goes far beyond bespoke, esoteric software features. Hardware means a lot too.

Today’s announcement is a sequel of sorts, also written by Landau, to a similarly-styled post—with 11 features then instead of the 8 now—that I reported on back in June. At the time, the post featured statements from Amazon accessibility executives Peter Korn and JoAnna Hansen. Both have been interviewed—Korn twice, in fact—in the past for this space.

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