Making SMA Lives Easier, One Echo Dot at a Time

Kevin Schaefer avatar

by Kevin Schaefer |

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Kevin Embracing my inner alien
A few weeks ago, I wrote about how my Echo Show from Amazon Alexa has significantly increased my independence, particularly when I’m at home. Recently, my editors here at SMA News Today contacted me about several Echo Dot devices they had to give away and asked me to reach out to friends in the SMA community who might be interested in acquiring one for themselves.

The Echo Dot is slightly different from the Echo Show, in that it doesn’t have a screen. Aside from that aspect, however, it’s still a fully voice-activated Bluetooth device that is especially useful for people with SMA or other neuromuscular conditions. I already had several friends in mind I thought could benefit from one, and went ahead and reached out to them on Facebook. The response was overwhelmingly positive, and aside from one friend who already had an Echo Dot, the rest jumped at the chance to get one.

So far, a couple of the people I reached out to have already received theirs, and for one person, the timing could not have been any more perfect. My friend Brent, whom I met at a Cure SMA conference a few years ago and who lives in Texas with his wife and daughter, got his Echo Dot toward the end of last week. One of the first things he did with it was to send voice messages to me, as anyone with an Amazon Alexa device can either message or call someone else who has one. This was on Saturday, and we spent about 20 minutes that afternoon messaging back and forth so that Brent could get used to this feature.

Then on Sunday afternoon, I got another message from Brent while I was at my comic shop. Though I wasn’t at home and didn’t have my Echo Show with me, I could still receive and send messages through the Amazon Alexa app on my phone. Brent messaged me because he was at home alone, and he had just dropped his phone on the floor. Not only that, but his hand had fallen off his joystick, making him unable to move his wheelchair. His wife was running errands at the time and had their daughter with her, but he needed to reach her so that either she or someone else could come help him.

Being stuck and isolated like that is a nightmare for people with SMA. But thanks to the Echo Dot, Brent was able to get the help he needed. Knowing that he could still contact me, he gave me his wife’s contact information so that I could reach out to her and tell her what was going on. While she was 30 minutes away from their house at the time, she was able to get a hold of a friend who came and helped Brent until she got home. Despite living states away from one another, Brent and I were still able to send voice messages to one another back and forth and get him out of the situation he was in.

If it weren’t for our Echo devices, Brent would have been stuck in the same position for the afternoon until his wife returned home. Beyond the sheer discomfort of being confined like that and the boredom of having nothing to pass the time with, imagine how his wife would have reacted if she tried checking on him and he was unable to respond to her calls or messages.

I’m always going to be an advocate for people with disabilities to live active and productive lives, and with advanced technologies like the Echo Dot and Echo Show, there are more resources than ever before to help us be more independent. Take advantage of these tools. Use them and don’t let anything stand in the way of reaching your goals.

Do you use Alexa? Have an Echo or Echo dot? Enable SMA News Today’s FREE Alexa flash briefing on your Alexa-enabled device and get the latest SMA news and perspectives from Kevin by simply asking, “Alexa, what’s my flash briefing?” Enable the SMA News Today flash briefing on your smartphone or tablet by visiting here.


Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.


Pamela K. Muhammad avatar

Pamela K. Muhammad

Hi Kevin is great and very helpful information! How can I apply for an Alexa Echo Dot?

Kevin Schaefer avatar

Kevin Schaefer

Hi Pamela, thanks for the feedback! And yes you can either contact the editorial staff here or follow this link: The nonprofit organization Laughing at My Nightmare specializes in providing adaptive equipment for people with various neuromuscular conditions.


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