Daphne French and her Alexa smart speaker
Daphne French and her Alexa smart speaker

One thing Daphne French, 97, misses most is reading the printed page.

The Auckland resident has Macular Degeneration and describes her vision like looking through a net curtain. She can’t see detail anymore so reading a physical copy of a book isn’t an option.

“One of the things I miss more than anything is holding a book and reading the printed word on the page.”

At a low vision support group, set up by the Blind Foundation, she heard about Amazon’s Alexa smart speaker.

The Blind Foundation has designed a ‘skill’ (similar to an app) for the smart speaker to give its library members easy access to our full talking book library collection.

“It enables me to read stories again,” says Daphne, “I am reading some religious literature at the moment but I love novels. My favourite are crime novels.”

Her daughter set her up with Alexa about three months ago and she finds the smart speaker simple to use.

“Yes, it’s easy enough to use. I don’t have a mobile phone, so if I can do it, then so can anyone.”

Before getting Alexa, Daphne used a DAISY player which plays audio books via CD. Daphne prefers Alexa because it gives her instant access to our full library collection – there’s no waiting around for a CD to come in the mail.

“All I have to do is ask Alexa to play me a book, and she does it.”

She says it has changed her life in many ways and encourages anyone thinking about trying out a smart speaker to give it a go.

“Go for it! It can’t hurt you. I have had moments of frustration with Alexa where she can’t understand me, but mostly it has made a huge difference in my life.”

Not only can Daphne access our library collection through Alexa, but she can also do so much more – such as access the latest news, play music and Alexa even has some sassy jokes to tell.

If you like the idea of accessing the Blind Foundation’s library on an Amazon Alexa smart speaker, register your interest online here or by phoning 0800 24 33 33. Training is available to support library members set up Alexa as well as guidance on how to use it.

You can also learn more about our Blind Foundation Alexa Skill on our website.