Blind Foundation Alexa Skill FAQ

What is an Alexa skill?
Skills are voice-driven programs that you use to do things with your Amazon device. You can select them in the Amazon store, just like choosing apps for mobile devices. For more detailed information, please visit Amazon Feature Help on their website.

How do I access the Blind Foundation skill?
To use the skill, you will first need to be a Blind Foundation Library member, or have a print disability. Registered Blind Foundation clients and New Zealand citizens/residents with a print disability are eligible to join. For more information, visit ‘Accessing our Library’ or call us on 0800 24 33 33.

If you do not have an Amazon account, you will need to register your e-mail address with Amazon to create your new account. Within New Zealand, it’s preferable to create your Amazon account on www.amazon.com.au.

The next step is to register your Amazon account name with the Blind Foundation, to authorise your access to the Blind Foundation skill. Please call us on 0800 24 33 33 to confirm your Amazon account with the Library team.

Once your account is confirmed, you will be able to access the Blind Foundation skill in your Alexa. Open the Alexa app, either on a mobile device (smart phone or tablet), or online at https://alexa.amazon.com.au/.

Search for “Blind Foundation” in the Alexa app, and select it from the search results. Then select “Enable Skill”, and you will be able to use it with your Alexa device.

Where can I buy an Alexa device?
Alexa devices can be purchased from local electronic retailers throughout New Zealand. There are different models with different capabilities and price ranges; the Dot is the cheapest, while the Echo has better sound quality.

Is Alexa spying on me? Is Alexa recording all the time?
No. Alexa stays in sleep mode until you wake her up by saying the command word, “Alexa”. After you wake her up, your command is recorded in order to process your request, and recording stops again while the system works to come back to you with a reply.

Does listening to audiobooks with Alexa use internet data?
Yes. Alexa uses data on your wireless Internet connection, but because you are reading through the book in real time, it will use less data than downloading a whole book at once. We estimate reading books and magazines on Alexa will use between 50-60 megabytes per hour, so do check how much data you have available on your monthly Internet plan. This is usually measured in gigabytes (thousands of megabytes).

Can I unplug Alexa and move it to another room? Will I lose my settings?
Yes, you can move Alexa around the house. No, you will not lose your settings, and the device should reconnect to your network when you plug it back in and power on. If your Internet signal is not strong in all the rooms in your house, you may find it works better in some rooms than others.

Can I change the volume without pressing buttons?
Yes, you can change the volume while you are reading a book or magazine. Say “Alexa, volume up”, or “Alexa, volume down”. There are 10 volume levels, where 1 is the quietest, and 10 the loudest. You can also set it to a specific volume level, for example, by saying “Alexa, volume 5”.

What magazines are available?
You can read all of the current magazine issues produced by the Blind Foundation studios. For a list of all available magazines, say “What magazines do you have?” while in the main menu of the skill.

Can I read books and magazines offline?
No. Alexa does not keep copies of the books and magazines you are reading, so you need to stay connected to the Internet in order to keep reading.

Can I save my place in the book I’m reading?
Yes. Alexa will remember where you left off when you stop reading a book, and will return you to that point when you ask for the book again. When you start the skill, Alexa will first ask whether you want to continue with the title you were last reading.

Can I change the speed of audio books and magazines?
No. At present, Alexa is only able to play back the audio as it was recorded, so you will only be able to read books and magazines at their original speed.