While modern technology is a nice convenience for most people, for people with SMA, it’s one of the most innovative resources we have to live independently. I recently wrote about my new wheelchair and how the features on it help me adapt to my weakening body functions. And now, another device I acquired is also making my daily life much easier. The Echo Show, which is a voice-activated tablet from Amazon Alexa, was given to me by my SMA News Today publisher to test out. With this device, I’m able to play music, podcasts, videos, and audiobooks and look things up online — all without even pressing a button.
The Echo Show is about the same size as an iPad, and with its eight microphones built into its system it can pick up my voice from anywhere in my room. All I have to say is “Alexa, play some alternative rock,” and it instantly starts a playlist for me. From there, I can tell it to raise or lower the volume, skip or repeat a song, or tell it to go to a different station. Heck, I can even set up my Domino’s account on it and tell it to order pizza for me! Eventually, it’ll likely evolve into some “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” death machine, but until I hear it talking about Skynet, I’m going to keep using it as my personal robot assistant.
It’s especially great for when I’m working, as I can keep my Google Docs app pulled up and not have to worry about switching back and forth to Spotify or YouTube. I now keep the Alexa device next to my workstation and let it take care of playing all of my music and podcasts while I focus on writing, social media, and sending emails (which are pretty much the three biggest components of a freelance writer’s occupation).
I’ve also noticed how much it helps me at night, particularly on the weekends. My caregiver works with me during the week, so my dad puts me to bed on Friday and Saturday nights, and usually pretty late. This gives me several hours to myself back in my room to do things like read, listen to music, watch TV, etc.
It used to be that I would need extensive help to switch from activity to activity; but now that I have my new chair, my JACO arm, and the Echo Show, I’m able to keep myself occupied for several hours while my dad relaxes out in the bonus room on the other side of the house. I find I’ll read for a couple hours, then move my right hand ever so slightly on my tray so I can reach my joystick, adjust my chair and open Amazon Prime on the Alexa device. Amazon currently has all of “Batman: The Animated Series” available for streaming, which leaves me with plenty of entertainment.
It’s little developments like this that make a transformative impact on my daily life. Living with SMA makes me yearn for and rejoice in all of the small things (cue the Blink-182 song). For people like me, technology is less of a convenience and more a necessity to help us lead healthy, productive lives.