In 2022, Amazon and Guide Dogs launched a successful pilot program, proving Alexa could complement their great services and further enhance life at home for their community members. 60% of Guide Dogs clients preferred to access information through Alexa over other channels, with half of clients accessing that information more frequently.
Guide Dogs is now underway with its Alexa install program, gifting clients an Echo Dot, home installation and education, with the option for participants to self-fund additional smart home devices. They have also launched a Guide Dogs for Alexa skill, which provides voice access to Guide Dogs news, information about Guide Dogs services, a calendar of upcoming accessible events, and for clients seeking further support, ability to request a call back.
Two of the pilot program participants, Abby and Gavan, share their experiences integrating Alexa into their home.
Alexa at home with Abby and Duke
Abby first experienced vision impairment as a toddler, before she was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa at age 3. She has had her guide dog Duke for six months and works passionately to advocate for more accessible technology for the vision impaired community.
Since discovering Alexa during the pilot program, Abby has enjoyed using her voice to access the Guide Dogs newsletter, play rain sounds as part of her bedtime routine and complete a guided HIIT workout everyday via the 7-minute workout skill. Duke is loving Alexa too, now that Abby has added an Ecovacs robot vacuum to help manage his fur and a Furbo pet treat dispenser, both controlled via Alexa from any room in the house. “Alexa, treat Duke!” is a favourite command in their home.
Abby Jayasuriya and her Guide Dog Duke are among the first to embrace the possibilities of Alexa.
“Now that I have an Echo Dot, I’m using Alexa for everything,” Abby said. “I really like listening to the latest Guide Dogs newsletter and using it for shopping, for example, I can add things like Dentastix to my cart really easily through Alexa. I’m excited to be exploring more home automation options too.”
Greater convenience for Gavan, Tippy and Zach with Alexa
Gavan also has Retinitis Pigmentosa, discovered when he was 16. He studied genetics and worked in science research until his late 20s when his vision deteriorated. He has a working guide dog, Tippy, and a retired guide dog, Zach, who are very loved members of the family.
For Gavan, Alexa is a tool of convenience – whether using it to turn on his coffee machine from bed, listen to the news in the shower or to talk to his Ring doorbell. For Gavan, it’s as simple as listening for the audible chime from his Echo Dot, then saying “Alexa, talk to front door” to communicate with his visitors.
“Alexa offers the security of being able to communicate with visitors at my front door without having to open it, as well as the ability to turn on my coffee machine from the comfort bed,” says Gavan Harrison. “I can see the biggest benefits of Alexa for the less digitally literate people in our community. They can use just their voice to access the world and boost their sense of community."
The Guide Dogs Alexa program – today and into the future
“Partnering with the Amazon team, Guide Dogs has delivered a new capability for the blind and low vision community that enables the community to stay up to date with newsletters, talk with our team and learn about our services all by just having a conversation with Alexa,” says Guide Dogs NSW/ACT Chief Technology Officer, Glenn Mason. “We are continuing to invest in the platform and are now working on new capabilities to further improve the customer experience for our Clients.”
“It’s been our great pleasure to work with Guide Dogs on this project,” says Country Manager, Amazon Alexa, Kate Burleigh. “We know Alexa is a great tool for every user, but we’re especially proud of our Alexa for Everyone work which maximises accessibility. Every partnership helps us to learn more about the needs of different communities and further enhance what Alexa has to offer.”
If you have a story of your own about how you use Alexa, we'd love to hear it and will continue sharing some of our favourite Alexa Stories. You can email us at AlexaStories@amazon.com or tag us on Twitter or Instagram @alexa99anz or #AlexaStories.
Next, learn how Alexa helps older blind and low vision Australians thrive with smart speaker support, here.