Amazon is rolling out a new accessibility feature for its screen-enabled Echo Show device that should make it easier for those with hearing or speech disabilities to interact with the Alexa-enabled gadget. Called 'Tap on Alexa,' the updated Show effectively adds shortcuts for actions to the device's touchscreen. Users can also customize what those shortcuts do, fitting the functionality to match to their most commonly used Alexa interactions. So, if a user takes advantage of the Echo Show to watch YouTube but almost never makes video calls, the objects on screen can be changed to reflect that. Similarly, that should also mean that users can place shortcuts to allow various smart home automation features at the tap of a button, with no voice interaction required. Meanwhile, those can also be reordered to suit the user's preference.
Amazon's reported statement on the matter doesn't indicate if the rollout will be to every region or whether every Alexa feature will be available at launch. So there may be some functions of the voice assistant which simply aren't immediately available. For now, the company says that preset options and Alexa Routines are supported, in addition to personalized Alexa commands entered via a text field. However, Amazon says that it will be improved over time. It also won't be available for the smaller screen-enabled Alexa device, the Echo Spot, immediately but that will come at some point in the next 'few months.' It may also eventually arrive for Amazon's Fire devices that support a docked mode called 'Show Mode' which allows the tablet to function as an Echo Show. Amazon has yet to clarify on the matter. Regardless, it could take some time to hit every user so users shouldn't be too concerned if it hasn't hit their Amazon Echo Show just yet.
In the meantime, Amazon is also expanding another related accessibility feature called Alexa Captioning to the U.K., Germany, Japan, India, France, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Captioning was rolled out in the U.S. last year and enabled closed captions for Alexa responses and incoming voice messages. That works on any Echo device with a screen but should be particularly useful when coupled with the new Tap on Alexa feature.