Amazon Alexa and Guide Dogs Australia have partnered to launch a new smart home education and installation program, providing Echo Dot smart speakers to Australians who are blind or have low vision.

The voice activated technology allows Guide Dogs clients to navigate daily routines more independently, giving them greater accessibility and boosting their sense of community.  

Participants also have the option to self-fund additional smart home devices such as smart lights, smart plugs, pet feeders or vacuums to be installed at the same time. 

The program launches alongside a new Guide Dogs for Alexa Skill which provides voice access to Guide Dogs news, services and information as well as the ability to request a call back for clients seeking further support. 

It follows a success pilot which found 60% of Guide Dogs clients preferred to use Alexa to access information from Guide Dogs versus other channels. A further 50% also accessed Guide Dogs information more frequently thanks to having Alexa in their home.

Amazon Alexa country manager, Kate Burleigh said, “It’s been our great pleasure to work with Guide Dogs on this project. 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.”

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT chief technology officer, Glenn Mason added, “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. We are continuing to invest in the platform and are now working on new capabilities to further improve the customer experience for our clients.”

Abby with her guide dog, Duke.

Pilot program participants, Abby and Gavan, who both have Retinitis Pigmentosa, share their experiences integrating Alexa into their home.

Abby said: “Now that I have an Echo Dot, I’m using Alexa for everything. I like listening to the latest Guide Dogs newsletter and using it for shopping, for example, I can add things like Dentastix to my cart easily through Alexa. I’m excited to be exploring more home automation options too.”

Gavan with his dogs, Tippy and Zach.

Gavan said: “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. 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.”