More digital participation Alexa for everyone: How language services support inclusion

“Alexa, turn on the light.”; “Alexa, call mom.” – Simple instructions like these make life so much easier for people with physical disabilities. Around 7.8 million people in Germany are already dependent on help in everyday life due to their severe disability. In addition, the number of people in need of care is around 5 million – and the number of those who need support will continue to rise due to demographic change.

But not only people in need of help and care themselves, but also their caregivers benefit from the technical support. Voice services like Alexa are almost predestined to make everyday life easier for these people. To promote digital participation through technology, Amazon has launched the “Alexa for everyone” initiative. It came about after a lot of positive feedback for the language service and is supported by well-known organizations: The Inclusion through Support and Care Foundation (IFB) and the German Alzheimer Society Self-Help Dementia are on board, as are the German Red Cross (DRK) and the German Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (DSBV).

Lead a self-determined life: This is how “Alexa for everyone” helps people with disabilities in everyday life

In practice, Alexa helps people like Camilla Wieck. She needs help due to genetic muscle atrophy. If a visitor rings at her door, she asks them to come in with the help of the voice service: “Alexa, open the door.” The 51-year-old, who is in a wheelchair, is grateful for help like this. Upgrading to a smart home changed her life, she says: “At some point Alexa came into my life and suddenly opened up possibilities that didn’t exist before.”

In the past, reports Wieck, a caregiver forgot to turn off the light when walking. If that happened, she had to sleep with the lights on. Today she no longer has to worry about such inconveniences. Wieck controls her Smart Home in all imaginable areas: coffee machine, body dryer, air purifier, blinds, lights, television or sockets – the Wiesbaden resident operates everything with her voice and Alexa’s help. Wieck is happy about the technical help in everyday life and says: It is a big gain in quality of life to control things that make life easier.

Alexa also helps older people: support for loneliness and dementia

Together with the Fraunhofer Institute IESE and the DRK, the “Digital Neighbors” model project was also carried out in Rhineland-Palatinate, which researched the extent to which digital devices can help to reduce the loneliness of older people. The result: Despite intense times due to the pandemic and lockdown, the seniors felt less lonely in “WG life” with Alexa and Echo Show than at the beginning of the project. The Alexa skill “My Henry” helps single people: It turns the voice service into a house emergency call, whose contact persons are individually specified and activated by voice.

Alexa is also used to care for people with dementia. Amazon is working with the German Alzheimer Society eV Self-Help Dementia to find out how Alexa can be used as effectively as possible to care for patients with dementia. A first test run showed that reminders of appointments or important to-dos noticeably relieve the burden on caring relatives. In addition, the language ability of people with dementia benefits from the exchange with Alexa, provided that they have become accustomed to the voice service at an early stage.

In order to further improve Alexa, the feedback obtained from the testers should be taken into account. For example, they expressed a desire for an emergency call function or automatic recognition of gestures and faces. Saskia Weiß, Managing Director of the German Alzheimer Society eV Self-Help Dementia, draws the following conclusions from the cooperation so far: “The initial findings are promising. We were surprised at how openly the test subjects accepted Alexa. This shows that language services have the potential to help people with To support dementia and their relatives in their everyday life.”

Alexa for Everyone projects help thousands of people

Because offers like these are not a matter of course for people with disabilities, the “Alexa for All” program is intended to contribute to a more inclusive society. This also includes participation in the digital media program. In cooperation with ARD, ZDF and ARTE, DBSV and Amazon have developed the free and barrier-free Alexa skill “HÖRFILM” for the blind and visually impaired. This means that those affected can not only access content with audio description easily and free of charge on Alexa-enabled devices such as Echo, Echo Show, Fire TV and Fire tablets, but also control it. Around 4,000 pieces of content are currently included in the media library – and there are more every day.

The most important information about “Alexa for everyone” on one page

If you would like to learn more about the stories of users or need background and contact information, it is best to take a look at the program’s website There you will also find a list of the organizations that have joined the “Alexa for All” initiative.

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