Let’s Get Accessible Products Built! Amazon Build It

It’s not often we get to influence which products make it to shelves for us to buy. So when I came across Amazon Build It, it caught my attention for two reasons. Firstly it seemed like an original and fun way to let consumers decide what products they make. Secondly I immediately saw the potential to get more accessible products made. The products showcased by Amazon Build It are compatible with Alexa. Alexa has been a game changer for blind and visually impaired people in recent years, myself included, so I thought maybe products designed to be used with Alexa, might well be accessible for people like me too.

What are Blind and Vi accessible products?

There should be more products out there that are accessible to people with vision loss. Our world is predominantly deaignwd and built by sighted people, for sighted people, therefore much of it is not accessible to me and others who can’t see so well. I’m often on the lookout for products that can reduce the chasm between what is available to me and and what I would actually need to fully access and enjoy the world around me. There are some fantastic assistive products available for the visually impaired and there are mainstream products that are also accessible and I can enjoy them as much as my sighted friends. These two categories of products make a huge difference to the quality of life of blind and visually impaired people and we want to see more of them.

Why aren’t there more vi friendly products?

Specialised products, such as those designed for blind people, naturally have a smaller target audience, so although talented and creative people are inventing, developing and engineering great ideas, in many cases they stay that way, a great idea. The majority of the products that end up on the shelves for us to buy are designed to appeal to the widest demographic so they are likely to sell more. So for most new products, accessibility for those with a visual impairment is seldom a priority. However, sometimes the design of a product means that it is accessible to groups with specific requirements as well as the general population. This is the best kind of product as it relevant to so many. A great example of this is Alexa, Amazon’s smart home assistant. Alexa is as accessible to me as the rest of my family who are sighted. Alexa makes life easier, or more entertaining for us all regardless of whether we can see or not. Although it wasn’t designed as an assistive tool for blind and partially sighted people, in many ways it fits this description. This is an example of a product that made it into many of homes and improved lives of so many, regardless of their ability to see.

Amazon Build It

Amazon Build It is a program that provides a refreshing opportunity for us, the consumer to have a say in which products are made a reality.  

How it works

1. For 30 days, Amazon showcases a few ideas for devices that work with Alexa to do something innovative.

2. We, the consumer can pre-order items we want to see made.

3. If enough people pre-order a product in the given time, Amazon will build it, and those who have preordered it will be the first to receive the product. If the product doesn’t reach its pre order target in the given time, it doesn’t get built and those who have pre ordered it are not charged.

Why is this exciting?

We are so used to being told by advertisers and marketing campaigns what we want, what we need and what to buy. The thing is, they don’t always get it right. Not for me anyway. For a visually impaired person like me, I can often feel excluded or overlooked by these campaigns. It can sometimes feel like being told ‘Everyone needs this new exciting thing. You can’t be seen without one… oh, but not you, you don’t count.’ With Amazon Build It, it’s like being told our opinion matters, no matter who you are. The idea is obviously a clever move for Amazon, as they only invest the time and money required to produce an item once they know that people will buy it, but it also gives us a say in what we actually want, which is really quite refreshing. I also like that it is a more intentional way of introducing new products to the market, not mass producing a product that may end up unused, and the products are innovative, not a competing version of something that already exists. This is different to crowdfunding schemes which we have seen grow over the years. We are not investing money in the product, we are just saying we are willing to buy it.

Amazon Build It Products

There are several products currently being showcased by Amazon Build It. The Smart Nutrition Scales caught my attention and I have pre-ordered it in the hope that it gets built. I like the idea of having scales that can give me nutritional information about my food through Alexa. Of course the product hasn’t been made yet, so I can’t provide details about how it works or whether I like it, but it is an example of a product that could solve the issue of not being able to read food labels or regular nutritional scales through its universal accessibility. So if that sounds interesting to you, take a look and if you preorder one too, we’re one step closer to getting them built!

Amazon Build It was responsible for the launch of Echo Frames which were designed for everyone, but are accessible for those who can’t see so well, and they are also assistive. They look like everyday eyewear, but perform the job of a smart device with open ear audio technology which directs sound worlds your ears. You can call people, listen to music, catch up on the news, or for those of us who are visually impaired we might be listening to directions, all while keeping your hands free, your ears open and staying present.

Have Your Say

The more feedback we can give to companies about the kinds of smart products we want to see, the more they will listen. This is a rare channel where we can do just that. It’s a way we can actually have some influence about what is made available to us. Check out the products that are being showcased on Amazon build it at the moment, and have your say. It seems like a small thing, a bit of fun and a bit gimmicky, but if we want to see more accessible products on the market for everyone, we should take the opportunities that we have to make our opinions heard.

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