Amazon Fire tablets get new accessibility features like “Tap to Alexa” and more

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Amazon has announced that it is bringing “Tap to Alexa” functionality to Fire tablets, including the new Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 8 Plus tablets launched just a day ago. Other accessibility features that have been introduced to the Fire family of tablets include text-to-speech and compatibility with Bluetooth switch access controllers, The Verge reported.

Of these, tapping Alexa can be thought of as the touch equivalent of regular voice interaction with Alexa. So instead of summoning Alexa via voice commands, there’s the pre-designated little ring on the screen, touching which will summon the Alexa smart assistant. You will be greeted with a range of the most commonly used commands. These include Stop, Timer, Alarm, Weather, Traffic and Prank.

Some of the options, like Joke, can be a one-tap operation, as just tapping them will have Alexa share a joke with you. The same can also apply to weather, unless you need the latest weather information for a specific location other than the one you are primarily looking for weather information for. However, others like the alarm may require more interactions like selecting the date and time options displayed on the screen.

There’s also the Quick Question tile where you can type a question as if you were speaking it aloud to Alexa. You can also add a new tile for a specific request, such as playing your favorite TV show or performing a preset Alexa routine. Examples of the latter can be performing the Goodnight routine which can include a series of tasks such as locking the smart lock and turning off non-essential smart gadgets, followed by turning off the lights.

Tap to Alexa is available on the Amazon Fire tablet, generation eight and above, except for Echo Show devices to which it was limited until now. The service is however limited to the US, UK, Germany and Japan.

Text to Speech on the Fire tablet is another accessibility feature where Alexa reads aloud what the user has typed on it. This is going to be particularly useful for people with speech and/or mobility impairments. This can be useful for people with mobility issues or who are wheelchair bound. They can type in their needs and ask Alexa to speak the written phrase aloud, serving as a means of communication with those who matter.

Then there are also Bluetooth switch access controllers such as the button, blink sensor or puff straw that can work in tandem with Tap to Alexa so people with severe mobility impairments can communicate with the outside world via Alexa. Amazon said it worked with the United Spinal Institute’s Tech Access Initiative to design the new accessibility features.

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