Amazon is bringing more accessibility features to its Fire tablets, including the Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 8 Plus announced today, adding support for Tap to Alexa, compatibility with Bluetooth switch access controllers and introducing a new text-to-speech feature.
Tap to Alexa is an accessibility feature that lets you interact with the voice assistant using touch rather than voice. Previously only available on Echo Show devices (speakers with touch screens), it is now available on Amazon’s 8th generation or newer Fire tablets in the US, UK, Germany and Japan.
When Tap to Alexa is enabled, a small “tap” icon will appear on the screen, which when tapped will open a dashboard of frequently used commands. These commands include stop, timer, alarm, weather, traffic, and jokes. Text-to-speech on the Fire tablet will allow users to enter phrases and have the Fire tablet speak them aloud. Users can also add any specific request to their tiles. For example, play a favorite TV show, call a friend, or run an Alexa program such as the Goodnight app that locks the smart lock and turns off the smart light.
There is also a new feature that is compatible with Bluetooth switch access controllers, such as a button, eye blink sensor or sip straw. Combined with Tap to Alexa, the switch access controller makes it possible for those with severe mobility impairments to make Alexa requests directly on the Fire tablet. For users with speech impairments, the text-to-speech feature on the Fire tablet is designed to allow users to enter phrases and speak them aloud through the tablet. Shortcuts can also be saved for common phrases, such as “I’m hungry.
Amazon said it worked with the United Spinal Institute’s Technology Access Initiative to get feedback on these new features and to see how it could help users with speech and mobility impairments become more independent.