5 Incredible Features of Voice Assistants That Increase Their Accessibility

by Abigail Davis

Technological developments in recent decades have changed the way many of us live, particularly as it concerns convenience. Voice assistants are a prime example of this phenomenon, making everyday tasks easy so long as you “say the word.” However, for users with disabilities, the functions of voice-assisted technology can do more than just make their lives simpler. In fact, these technologies are actually instrumental in helping many people live more independently. 


When it comes to technology of any kind, accessibility refers to a device’s ability to be used successfully by people with a wide range of abilities. As the term suggests, accessible technology enables users to interact with it in the ways that work best for them, whatever that may entail. With growing awareness of accessibility in recent years, many consumers are discovering innovative ways in which some pieces of technology can be used by more than just able-bodied consumers.

Voice-enabled technology presents an incredible opportunity to increase the independence of those with disabilities, particularly individuals with mobility, dexterity, vision, cognitive, and other kinds of impairments. While technologies like voice assistants still have a long way to go to become fully accessible to everyone, these devices enable many more individuals to retrieve information and perform tasks simply using speech.

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With the widespread adoption of “smart home” technologies, voice assistants have played an important role in controlling integrated devices without the user ever having to lift a finger. At face value, these features are incredibly convenient, but being able to retain control of lights, locks, appliances, and thermostats creates greater possibilities for those living with different accessibility needs. As opposed to having to move about a living space to reach light switches, door locks, or a cooking appliance, a consumer can simply ask their Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant to perform the task for them. These functions foster independence in individuals with disabilities and allow them to feel greater comfort, safety, and control in their own homes. 


One of the most popular features of voice assistants is their ability to set reminders for appointments, tasks, and more. For individuals with disabilities, a simple, routine reminder to take medication, monitor levels, or perform another act of care can help them stay on top of necessary health regimes. Though setting and receiving reminders from voice-enabled technology is a rather mundane feature, their applications in the lives of those with disabilities can make all the difference in staying on top of one’s health. 


The intuitive technology of voice assistants is accessible in more ways than one, particularly in their ability to register short voice commands in addition to full sentences. Using natural language processing, voice-enabled technology has been engineered to identify keywords in an utterance and use them to perform the correlating task, regardless of grammatical completeness or correctness. If a person with cognitive or speech disabilities is not able to state the full sentence asking for what they want or need, they can provide an invocation and then a simple phrase like, “Alarm, 90 minutes,” and still achieve the same goal.


For those particularly sensitive to bright lights or screens, voice-enabled technology allows full functionality without having to engage with any sensory triggers. By only relying on voice, users can safely and comfortably leverage technological tools to retrieve information and perform tasks in the ways that work best for them. 


Most importantly, voice-enabled technology allows people with disabilities to find a greater sense of independence in their routines. With advancing technology, users are able to gain control over some of the most important aspects of their lives. In assisting in many small tasks, voice assistants provide help to allow users with disabilities to regain or forge their own independent lifestyles

In all, accessibly designed technology is of the utmost importance for consumers and developers alike. Devices like voice-enabled technology should never hinder a user in performing tasks or retrieving information, but instead, make such things easier. Voice assistants are already being utilized to empower those with disabilities to lead more independent lives—one can only imagine what the future holds for accessible technology.