Amazon has launched a new Alexa feature where customers simply use their voice and say – “Alexa, call RNIB Helpline” – to access vital services and advice. This is one of many features launched in collaboration with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

Customers who need the service can simply say “Alexa, call RNIB Helpline” during the Helpline opening hours (Monday to Friday, 8am-8pm; Saturday, 9am -1pm) and an RNIB advisor will answer calls and offer support to those who need it.

According to the RNIB’s My Voice research report, more than half of blind and partially sighted people (54%) claim their sight loss is a barrier to using the internet, and nearly two thirds (61%) report feeling unable to make the most of new technology, with many citing accessibility issues.

This opens up new possibilities for almost-immediate access to a range of RNIB services.
Jamie Dormandy, Head of Advice and Customer Service, RNIB

The RNIB Helpline is a gateway to essential services for blind and partially sighted people, which have been vital during the pandemic and can prevent people from becoming isolated. Since March 2020, the RNIB Helpline has kept callers updated with crucial information and guidance throughout the coronavirus pandemic, and advisers have been able to connect people with local sources of support.

Jamie Dormandy, RNIB’s Head of Advice and Customer Service, explains: “The RNIB Helpline has played an important role in providing vital support and advice during the last year and will continue to do so as restrictions are eased, and people’s lives change once again.

“Maintaining connections with others has been especially important during periods of restrictions and lockdown. Now people will have direct access to help and support via their device. It opens up new possibilities for almost-immediate access to a range of RNIB services including RNIB Talking Books, discussion and support groups, practical and emotional support and advice about everything from social distancing to social media.”

Amit Patel Call RNIB Helpline Show & Tell
Show & Tell lets Echo users hold common household objects up to the camera and simply ask, “Alexa, what am I holding?” to identify the items.

“This is the next step in our collaboration with the RNIB, as part of our ongoing commitment to developing Alexa’s accessibility features,” said Dennis Stansbury, Alexa country manager. “The new ‘Alexa Call RNIB Helpline’ calling feature is another great way of helping our blind and partially sighted customers to feel more independent and connected by simply using voice commands.”

The feature follows on from the recent launch of Amazon’s Accessibility Hub, which outlines the numerous ways smart home devices and virtual assistants can help unlock new ways to get things done – from switching on kettles and asking for the weather, to identifying store cupboard ingredients – turning everyday difficulties into effortless independence.

See below for some additional accessibility features that are offered by Alexa in a continued effort to support all our customers, including people with disabilities.

Features via the Accessibility Hub include:

  • Show & Tell

Late last year, Amazon introduced Show & Tell in the UK, allowing Echo users with a screen to hold common household objects up to the camera and simply ask, “Alexa, what am I holding?” to identify the items that are difficult to recognise by touch alone, such as tins and cleaning products.

  • Speak Slower/Faster

Customers in the UK can ask Alexa to speak slower or speak faster, enabling Alexa to adapt to a diverse set of customer needs. Those who are visually impaired, and use text to speech on their technology, can request that Alexa speaks faster, mimicking the speed they are used to on other technology devices. This feature also aides those who are hard of hearing, allowing Alexa to speak at a preferred rate that suits their needs.

  • Screen Magnifier

The Screen Magnifier feature allows people with low vision to zoom in/out and pan to enlarge items on the screen for improved visibility – enabling customers using an Echo with a screen to make better use of functions, such as cook-along.

  • Voice View Screen Reader

Alexa's VoiceView feature is a screen reader for Echo devices with a screen. When enabled, VoiceView lets you use gestures to navigate the device while VoiceView describes the actions you perform on screen. Once VoiceView is enabled, specific gestures allow you to navigate the screen, such as swiping left or right with three fingers to go to the next or previous page.

  • Alexa App Theming

The Alexa app has recently been updated to include light and dark modes and text scaling for improved accessibility. The new update will allow users to have increased readability and offer colour contrast in different light environments for those that struggle with low or high-light situations.

To find out how you can make more possible with Alexa, visit the Amazon Accessibility Hub.