Voice Assistants for People with Speech Disabilities Are on the Horizon

Voice assistants like Alexa, Siri and Google Home are revolutionizing the way we interact with devices, but so far they’ve failed to adequately serve people who have speech disabilities. This shortcoming is detailed in Moira Corcoran’s article titled “When Alexa Can’t Understand You.” Published on Slate, Corcoran’s article explains in detail how people with speech disabilities are often unable to use voice assistants as well as the challenges companies are working to overcome to make voice assistants more accessible.

And companies are indeed working on solutions. One company cited in the article is VOICEITT, which is testing technology that translates non-standard speech into standard speech so devices can listen and respond to those with speech disabilities. The article also mentions Amazon’s Tap to Alexa feature, which allows people with speech disabilities to use Alexa without their voices.

Though a step in the right direction, Corcoran notes that some features “still have barriers for people with limited mobility and poor fine motor skills, who may be unable to easily walk over to a screen or tap small buttons.”

The technology is far from perfect, but it’s getting there – and with the assistive technology expected to become a $37 billion industry by 2023, it’s certain more companies than ever will be working toward solutions that benefit people with disabilities.

Brian Morris

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