Rise and Shine

The other day I woke up with a really sore throat (…you know, the type where you dread saying a single word because it hurts so much!) This got me thinking, I live in a relatively ‘SMART’ reliant home, so what do I do if I can’t ask Alexa to turn my heating up, turn my lights and TV on, set my timer to remind me when my tea is cooked, answer my front door etc? So, I set about exploring.

We all know that an Amazon Echo device is easy to use when you speak to it but what if you are unable to say that key wake word to activate it with your voice? Do you clap, ring a bell, toot a novelty car horn? Whilst entertaining for you, this will most likely irritate your spouse, housemate or siblings, and Alexa – blissfully unaware – will continue to wait for the simplest of incantations to rouse her from her slumber. So, what do you do? The answer is simple, you give her prod, or rather a tap…

Turning on the tap

The Amazon Echo Show is a screen-based device rather than just being a speaker, so you can use the visual display to activate the device without speech. All you need to do is enable the ‘Tap to Alexa’ feature, which allows you to tap the screen to activate commands in the same way you would normally with your voice. ‘Tap to Alexa’ can be turned on in the Echo Show’s settings under accessibility. Swipe down from the top of the screen and tap the settings icon, then scroll down to ‘Tap to Alexa’ and select. Your Echo Show will permanently show a small hand in the corner of the screen.

A world at your fingertips

When you tap the hand, a menu of common Alexa commands will appear on the screen. For example, weather, timer, calendar, news etc. Tapping the desired icon, e.g. “weather”, is the equivalent of using the voice command ‘Alexa what’s the weather today?’ Similarly, if you tap the timer icon it will bring up a touch interface enabling you to set your timer to the required length of time without having to directly ask Alexa to do it for you. (Which when you have a dog who is terrified of the word ‘Alexa’ and all the optional wake words for Echo, it can come in quite handy!)

As for other commands and questions, just tap the keyboard icon (labelled “quick question”) and type away. If this is a regular command or question for Alexa, you can add it as a single button to your screen by tapping “new”, typing your command, and choosing from a choice of icons (with an option to manage the current icons i.e. rearranging the order of your icons.)

Other features include ‘VoiceView screen reader’ which when enabled in settings means you can touch the screen and the Echo show will provide spoken feedback to you, reading out loud exactly what is on the screen. You can access recipes, read messages basically anything you would normally access visually, Alexa will read out for you.

The right to speak

In addition to the tap function, the Echo Show has several other communicational features to help the user. For example, by enabling “communication without speech” in the accessibility settings, you will be able to drop in, announce, call, or send a message without having to say a single word. Once you’ve enabled it, swipe the screen (from right to left) and select “communicate”. You can then select your desired command; for example, “announce” will bring up an option for you to type in your announcement and then announce it for you.

The Echo Show even has functions that can aid a user with a visual impairment. I know, being a visual based screen device, an Echo Show may not be the most obvious choice for someone who cannot see. However, it can be used as a really easy way to make a video call if the person you are calling wants to be able to see you. You don’t have all the fiddly jobs of connecting your sound and video it’s instant. All you need to do is simply ask Alexa to call the person and she will give you an option of voice call or video call. Then you can just sit back in your chair and chat (I have even known them be used to complete virtual workouts during the pandemic.)

A little box of joy

The Echo Show is a versatile device that is truly accessible for everyone. Just by activating some of its in-built accessibility features, it can be used even if you can’t speak or can’t see. Who would have thought that a device that is so renowned for being voice activated could be so accessible for everyone? A gem.