Post date: 
Wednesday, 31 March 2021

People with sight loss can now connect directly to The Royal National Institute of Blind People’s (RNIB) Helpline by saying “Alexa, call RNIB Helpline”.

This simple voice command, spoken to an Alexa-enabled device, triggers Amazon’s new functionality on Alexa and was developed in partnership with RNIB.

RNIB’s Helpline is a gateway to essential services for blind and partially sighted people, services which have been vital during the pandemic and can prevent people from becoming isolated. Since March 2020, RNIB’s Helpline has kept callers updated with crucial information and guidance throughout the coronavirus pandemic, and advisers have been able to connect people with local sources of support.

Jamie Dormandy, RNIB’s Head of Advice and Customer Service, said: “RNIB’s Helpline has played an important role in providing vital support and advice during the last year and will continue to do so as restrictions are eased, and people’s lives change once again.

“Maintaining connections with others has been especially important during periods of restrictions and lockdown. Now, by simply saying ‘Alexa, call RNIB Helpline’, people will have direct access to help and support via their device. It opens up new possibilities for almost-immediate access to a range of RNIB services including RNIB Talking Books, discussion and support groups, practical and emotional support and advice about everything from social distancing to social media.”

Dennis Stansbury, Alexa Country Manager, said: “This is the next step in our collaboration with RNIB, as part of our ongoing commitment to developing Alexa’s accessibility features. The new ‘Alexa Call RNIB Helpline’ calling feature is another great way of helping our blind and partially sighted customers to feel more independent and connected by simply using voice commands.”

Using Alexa to reach the Helpline advisers direct means people will be able to start talking with an adviser without touching their phone or pairing it to their Alexa device. To end the call, they simply say “Alexa, end call”.

The new service follows the collaboration last year between Amazon and RNIB, which enabled Alexa users to hear RNIB-verified information about living with sight loss. RNIB research* shows that vision impairment remains a major barrier to accessing the internet, so voice-technology is an important way of improving the accessibility of online information for more than two million people across the UK who are living with sight loss.

Through RNIB’s Helpline, callers can receive advice and guidance on how to get started with technology and voice activated devices, which have already provided increased independence for many blind and partially sighted people.

The RNIB Helpline opening hours are Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm and Saturday 9am to 1pm. The phone number is 0303 123 9999.

Notes to editors

*According to RNIB Research, more than half of blind and partially sighted people (54 per cent) claim their sight loss is a barrier to using the internet, and nearly two thirds (61 per cent) report feeling unable to make the most of new technology, with many citing accessibility issues. RNIB My Voice (2015) https://www.rnib.org.uk/myvoice

All media enquiries to the RNIB press office on [email protected] or call 0207 391 2223. For urgent enquiries out-of-hours, please call 07968 482812.

About RNIB

We are the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

Every six minutes, someone in the UK begins to lose their sight. RNIB is taking a stand against exclusion, inequality and isolation to create a world without barriers where people with sight loss can lead full lives. A different world where society values blind and partially sighted people not for the disabilities they’ve overcome, but for the people they are.

RNIB. See differently.

Call the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or visit www.rnib.org.uk