AlertSmart(tm) Means Accessible Alerts for the Blind and Visually Disabled

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We’ve been talking about AlertSmart™ for weeks now. AlertSmart is our new process for delivering mass notification and emergency alerts through Alexa-enabled smart speakers. And it’s a big deal, because smart speakers will be a powerful way for people to communicate in a few short years.  

Thanks to Hyper-Reach, smart speakers can be a powerful way for public safety and emergency managers to communicate to the public today. That’s because there are now more smart speakers in the US than home landlines. And getting your residents to turn on AlertSmart for their Alexa units is as simple as saying, “Alexa, enable Hyper-Reach.”

But there’s an added benefit to AlertSmart: providing access to emergency alerts for the blind. 

Because AlertSmart can help you deliver emergency alerts and mass notification services to the blind (and the deaf, actually, but that’s another story.) And that can be useful for meeting the requirements of grants, federal and state laws and your own sense of obligation to all your citizens. 

Smart speakers are game-changing technology for the blind community. They provide accessibility by voice and sound and make tasks much easier than previous technologies could.  Here are just a few examples:

  • Easy access to news/information, websites and searches
  • Time and list management
  • Making home automation and security easier
  • Controlling appliances, thermostats and other home devices
  • Access to audiobooks and music
  • Finding and using recipes
  • Providing fashion assistance (with a camera-enabled device, such as the Echo Show)
  • Reading pill bottles, recipes and other written material (requires camera-enabled device)
  • Communicating, either by phone or text (“Alexa, call Mom.”) and even playing games. 

As one Alexa user reported to Amazon: “I am totally blind, so being able to tell Alexa what to do is wonderful. I like the fact, we can get videos, tv shows, music, etc. for us to listen to.”

While no one appears to know exactly how many of the blind have smart speakers, there are clues from other sources. One publication estimates that 95% of blind people have a smartphone, suggesting that the blind can be avid technology adopters. A recent study by Strategy Analytics says “smart home devices such as smart speakers were used by the vast majority of the blind or visually impaired participants in our research.” Every publication dedicated to the blind seems to have articles on smart speakers. And the National Federation for the Blind has created special services to be delivered over Alexa units.

And Amazon Alexa devices seem to be the smart speaker of choice for the blind. A CBC radio report says “Amazon Echo seems to be coming out on top…among the blind community.” And Martin Ralfe, of UK’s Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, describes the Amazon Echo as “the most successful product on the planet” for accessibility for the blind. 

The bottom line here is that delivering emergency alerts through Alexa and other smart speakers is an effective way to provide an additional level of meaningful access to the blind. And that’s important for emergency managers and public safety officials who have both a moral obligation to serve all of their citizens and potential legal obligations to provide access, such as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, Section 308 of the Stafford Act and related federal and state regulations. 

So if you’re an existing Hyper-Reach customer, ask us how AlertSmart can help you deliver emergency alerts to all your citizens. And if you’re not using Hyper-Reach, find out how we can help you.

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