Accessibility in AI assistants is still failing people with speech difficulties

Description of video for audio impaired visitors

In this video I demonstrate how Alexa doesn’t accommodate people taking a very short pause whilst issuing a command. The example used is a simple arithmetic question.

I ask Alexa the first part of the question, and then grab a breath before finishing. This causes Alexa to enter an error state and terminate the command.

I end the video by explaining that I care about this issue because I observed all kinds of failures in technology in the 90s and early 00s where the web was racing ahead but failing to consider accessibility needs as it did so. It feels like the same is still happening. Alexa devices are a great step forwards for many people including people with accessibility needs, but if you have speech difficulties they are problematic: it’s not like I took a long pause or stammered heavily, the level of accommodation by the app was brutal.

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