locked Re: Amazon: Am I the only one that feels this way?

Gerald Levy

The bottom line is that both the Amazon Echo and Google Home smart speakers were never really designed with accessibility in mind in the first place.  To set up a Google Home device, you need an expensive smart phone, which, itself may not be all that accessible.  The Amazon Echo can allegedly be set up by computer, but I have not seen any rports from blind consumers successfully   setting it up this way without sighted help. Large tech companies seem to be sliding backwards when it comes to accessibility.  For instance, PayPal, which claims that they are dedicated to making their web site accessible, no longer offers telephone customer support for disabled customers who encounter problems with the site. The blindness advocacy organizations have been uncharacteristically quiet about this issue.  Despite the problems you have described, they have never demonstrated any inclination to take legal action against these companies to force them to make their products, apps and customer support more accessible and blind-friendly.  Probably because their wimpy lawyers are afraid to challenge big bad Amazon and Google and the likes of Jeff Bezos and Eric Schmidt.  They are only interested in litigation if they see a big payday for themselves.  For instace, years ago when the NFB successfully sued Target to force them to make their web site more accessible, they pocketed $250K in punitive damages, and since then have not bothered to regularly inspect the Target site to ensure that it remains accessible.  In factthe Target site, at least from my perspective, has become progressively less accessible since thesettlement.  So we blind consumers really have nobody fighting on our behalf for better accessibility.



On 10/19/2020 3:58 AM, Leedy Diane Bomar wrote:
I believe in inclusion. Amazon has improved significantly over the last ten years in this area. We can now use their hardward devices, including those with screens. But, they still have a long way to go as far as their app and web site are concerned.

My issue is a mindset and culture concern. We are still considered a "special" group. In other words, they still think that a separate website is what we SHOULD prefer, though very few use it. I believe that most of you would agree the using the app and website should be designed correctly so that it is equally accessible and usable for blind and sighted users. Separation is never equal.

So, why is it that when one calls the departments that provide customer service on using their hardware devices, which include accessible features such as voice view, the reps are not trained on those modes and want to send us to the Accessibility Department? Tonight when trying to set up my new Echo Show, the rep insisted that I could only use it by visually reading the screen. She was adamant about this fact, though I knew that wasn't the case. The standard help file they send out has no reference to using the device non-visually, not even a link! The Accessibility department is a misnomer, in fact, a rep from that department referred to it as "search and rescue" which may be a more apt title. They certainly don't have the tools to allow them to use their apps with voice on either iOS or Android! At best they can give descriptions of products and put them in your cart, which is often useful.

But, am I wrong in believing that the device reps should be trained in using those devices by a blind person? Shouldn't they even know that it is possible, and research how to set it up?

I had this issue with my first Kindle Fire, three years ago, and raised quite a ruckus about it, and hoped it had been resolved. But, it obiously has not. Tonight, I spoke with a supervisor who confirmed that the reps are not trained or even told that a blind person can make the screen be accessible by voice output. 

Am I the only one that is bothered by this attitude and its results? Am I the only one who writes to the Accessibility development team with complaints and suggestions. Several years ago, I even wrote to Jeff Bezos, and was contacted by a moron from their Executive team, who was supposedly in charge of "accessibility". He said things like: "they were really lucky to find me." "Why don't you just use the special access site?" "I used to have a blind friend" and worst of all was going to hire Freedom Scientific, who he had met at CSUN, to come in and give JAWS training to a group of developers while blindfolded! I asked him why they needed to be blindfolded, instead of just turning off the screen, and his reply was "but then, they could see the keyboard!" I pointed out that the developers needed training on coding for accessibility.more than learning JAWS, but he was a know-it-all. He refused to attend consumer conventions, saying that he had no time for that. I don't know if he is still there, but, he caused more problems than fixing anything.

Anyway, I am sorry that this seems like a useless rant, but, I would like input from others, of how to address this mindset problem. Is it just me, and an unrealistic belief in full inclusion, or, is it a problem for others?


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