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Alexa with an echo dot
Posted: Monday, August 5, 2019 7:49 AM
Joined: 4/29/2019
Posts: 27

Can PWD use an echo to talk with Alexa?  

My 53-year-old-daughter lives in assisted living. She repeatedly calls me on her cell phone in the early mornings or late evenings to find out if it's night time or morning, what day it is, what time it is, whether she has her CrossFit training that day,  among  other questions. She also asks staff at the AL if they're available, sometimes as many 3-4 times by going out in the halls late at night or very early in the morning. She and I have discussed with the staff whether she would be able to ask an echo and get answers from Alexa. They think it's worth a try. My daughter thinks it's a great idea.

What experience does anyone have getting an echo so a PWD can ask questions from Alexa and get answers with the hope those answers would  reduce the number of phone calls and wandering the halls to ask staff.  

Michael Ellenbogen
Posted: Monday, August 5, 2019 8:25 AM
Joined: 11/30/2011
Posts: 3431

I wrote this a while ago.


My daughter just bought me a Google Home Mini for Chanukah. As someone who lives with dementia, and who used do to be a leader in the IT field, I always thought one could be helpful to me and many folks with disabilities.


I quickly realized I was wrong. While the tool is great, it is not geared to people like me who have issues with speaking. I have trouble speaking and I hesitate in getting the words out, and the minute you pause it thinks you have stopped talking and no longer works or it thinks that was the end to your question and usually comes back with the wrong information or says it does not understand. It is very frustrating because it does not give me the time needed to talk.

When I am able to get a complete question out in time, when it replies it speaks too fast and because of that I have trouble processing the information and it does not register in my mind. It is very sad because I believe this tool could help so many with all types of disabilities, but I am sure they never include people like me in the process of the designing of it.

As a person who has an IT background, I know the changes that are needed are so simple if someone would have just known about the need. I can truly understand why they did not know, but it should also be an eye opener for why people like me should be included in the process of building new technology. If it could do the things I have in mind they would probably sell so many more, and disability organizations would probably even recommend them.

There are many things that Google Home Mini could be used for to make my life so much easier and to allow people with dementia to live at home longer with the help of such tools. While this personal assistant does not work for us, I am sure most of them if not all don’t work for people with disabilities. 

The problem above can easily be corrected by having a customization screen that is geared to the person that gives me a choice to select speed choices for speaking delay time and a separate one for play back. Another thing that could also be included specifically for me is to talk louder a bit when I address the unit. It could also be set up to help with additional feedback if I get something wrong.   

I like to play the same radio station daily but I either forget the name of it or get it wrong. It should remember items you had previously used and, if its similar, to ask if that is what you want or just play it. That would simplify my life so much more. Instead, I get very frustrated as I can’t remember it and need to look it up on the computer.  Some other simple tasks may include allowing me to tell it when I last took a drug and I could ask it when I last took it. This is just the tip of things and I do welcome the opportunity to work with any organization that will try to improve the lives of those living with disabilities. After all we should have the same rights as others to be able to use these types of products.

I do hope this was just a simple oversite and the changes can be made quickly because for people like me this could be life and death issues. Below are some of the things we can do with these devices today. 

 You can ask it any questions you need to know.  Like what is the temperature out. When will it snow. Have it play any kind of music or news radio station you like. Or just certain music. You can ask it information to a question you have or what is the latest news. Set reminders for you or even set cooking timers or other types of timers. Set it up with your computer to let you know your Outlook meetings or Google calendar or deadlines you have. Just ask it what the weather is like for the next few day or just now. You can have it send text to someone. If you have more than one you can broadcast to the others. If it does not understand what you ask it differently. It can even tell you jokes if you want. If multiple people use it, it can be set up to recognize who they are. If it is to low in volume say louder or lower to make it softer. These are great tools and they will only get better, but they should also be designed for people with disabilities as they probably need them the most. Someone had reach out to Google for me in reference to this, but they have not shown any interest in working with folks with disabilities.  

Posted: Wednesday, August 7, 2019 6:15 PM
Joined: 4/22/2017
Posts: 322

James, I use Alexa. Sometimes Alexa does not understand me but I don't mind repeating myself. Although I've become more scatter brained lately, I still consider  myself to be in the Early -Early stage of AD. (Yes, I know there is no such thing, but hey, I'm still driving so I'm sticking to it!
Posted: Thursday, August 8, 2019 7:47 AM
Joined: 4/29/2019
Posts: 27

Thanks, Michael.  Your description should help me and staff work with my DWD because she can talk well at times and hesitates at other times. We'll go slow.
Posted: Thursday, August 8, 2019 7:50 AM
Joined: 4/29/2019
Posts: 27

Badmoonrising (great name), thanks.  I'm glad to hear repeating ones self is not a problem because my DWD does that often, so that's encouraging. If she likes it, I may get an echo for me at my home so we can "drop in" on each other. It may be easier than the phone, because she frequently can't find or fumbles with it when she tries to answer it.  We'll see.