New Alexa function launched to support people with sight loss

Developed in partnership with the RNIB, the new function enables users to use the command ‘Alexa, call RNIB Helpline’ to be connected with support


A new function has been launched on Amazon’s Alexa-enabled devices to help connect people with sight loss to the Royal National Institute of Blind People’s (RNIB) Helpline.

Developed in partnership with the RNIB, the new feature allows people with sight loss to give the voice command of ‘Alexa, call RNIB Helpline’ to be connected directly to the service.

The helpline offers a gateway to support services for blind and partially sighted people, and through the pandemic, the helpline has also kept callers updated with information and guidance.

Jamie Dormandy, the RNIB’s head of advice and customer service, said the helpline has provided “vital support and advice” over the past year, and will continue to do so as restrictions ease.

“Maintaining connections with others has been especially important during periods of restrictions and lockdown,” Dormandy added, continuing: “Now, by simply saying ‘Alexa, call RNIB Helpline,’ people will have direct access to help and support via their device.

“It opens up new possibilities for almost-immediate access to a range of RNIB services including RNIB Talking Books, discussion and support groups, practical and emotional support and advice about everything from social distancing to social media,” Dormandy said.

The launch of the new function follows a collaboration between Amazon and the RNIB last year to enable Alexa users to hear RNIB-verified information about living with sight loss.

Research by the charity has shown that vision impairment continues to be a barrier to accessing the internet, with voice-technology a key way of improving the accessibility of online information.

By using the Alexa function, callers will be able to speak with an adviser without needing to touch their phones or pair them to an Alexa device.

Dennis Stansbury, Alexa country manager, said the new launch marks the next step of the collaboration with the charity, adding: “The new ‘Alexa Call RNIB Helpline’ calling feature is another great way of helping our blind and partially sighted customers to feel more independent and connected by simply using voice commands.”