Accessibility a key focus for Alexa product development, Alexa Canada’s country manager says

Two of the company's latest Alexa features are geared towards accessibility

Amazon Canada recently held its first Alexa & Accessibility Event in Toronto to show off its smart home accessibility features.

Celine Lee, the country manager for Alexa Canada, told MobileSyrup the company focuses on being the “earth’s most customer-centric company,” and the event was an opportunity to show how it was making good on the claim.

Accessibility is a key part of product creation, Lee explained. One of the first questions the team asks itself when designing a new product is how it can be made accessible.

Amazon announced a host of Alexa features earlier this year. Two focus on accessibility: Call Translation and Eye Gaze.

Call Translation allows customers to have their calls automatically translated with on-screen captions. The feature is available in Canada.

Eye Gaze allows customers to use their eyes to perform actions with Alexa, an assistant that largely focuses on voice-controlled commands.

“It’s a pretty powerful technology that we’re able to make more accessible to more people compared to some of the more expensive specialized systems out there,” Lee said of Eye Gaze.

Celine Lee during a product demonstration at the event. Image credit: Amazon Canada

She explained the feature was inspired by a customer with speech impairments.

Lee told MobileSyrup her team reads what customers write in reviews as one of the ways to understand what people think of their products. “It’s really important to us.” Customers can also email the company to share their thoughts and ideas.

Another important aspect that helps Amazon create such features is having team members across the company who understand what customers need from personal experiences.

“For any of the roles that we have, whether it’s engineering, quality assurance, product management, user research, these peoples experience on disabilities every day, and are most able to understand it and that’s really important in our product development process.”

Amazon’s downfall comes with making such features available to Canadians. Of the two new accessible focused Alexa features the company recently released, only Call Translation is available in Canada.

While the company wasn’t able to provide a roadmap on when other features, like Eye Gaze, would arrive, Lee stressed international expansion was important for Amazon.

“We really want to make sure that everything is ready for us to be able to launch it, and we’re always working hard to make sure that we can expand as fast as we can to as many places as possible.”

Image credit: Amazon Canada