Do you remember the first time an electronic device responded to a question you asked? Many of us remember the first generation of GPS devices for our vehicles and if you lived “off the beaten path” you too may have heard the mechanical voice say, “Stop, turn around” and had a good laugh. With current technology named Siri, Alexa, and the imaginative Google’s Assistant the opportunity for a two-way conversation is powerful. Ask for the weather forecast, ask to make a phone call, ask to order pizza and it seems to work like magic. Imagine though if Alexa doesn’t understand your speech pattern, recognize your words, and what excites others turns out to be a heartbreaker for you. Read on.
Why voice assistants don’t understand people who stutter
By Kevin Wheeler (2018)
Illustrations by Leonard Peng
When Apple released Siri in 2011, Marc Winski was excited. Here was a new way to play songs, make phone calls, and save time. All one needed to do was say the magic words: “Hey Siri, do this...” Winski didn’t expect his stutter to defeat the time-saving purpose of this technology.
But it did. “As soon as you pause or stop over a word, [Siri] stops listening,” said Winski, an actor living in Manhattan. “Something that was created to save time has created more stress.”
While these interactions are frustrating for Winski and the roughly 3 million people in the United States who stutter, voice assistants and voice recognition technology are here to stay. Whether it’s relaying your name to a non-human operator or telling Google to turn up the lights in your home, we’re talking to more robots—but the technology is leaving people who stutter behind.
Online url for Kevin Wheeler’s article: https://www.curbed.com/2018/12/12/18135195/alexa-google-home-tech-stuttering
Kansas Relay News
Sara Sack, Director, Assistive Technology for Kansans, reports that the Kansas Corporation Commission has selected Sprint to provide Telecommunications Relay Service and Captioned Telephone Service to the state of Kansas, effective January 1, 2019. Dr. Sack directs the Kansas Telecommunications Access Program and the Kansas Relay. An essential service that Kansas Relay makes available is access to Communications Assistants (CA) to facilitate phone calls as needed, 24/7. People with a speech disability such as stuttering, or those who use a voice synthesizer, can use their own voice on a Speech-to-Speech (STS) relay call. The CA is specially trained to understand unique speech patterns and repeats the words exactly as they are spoken to their caller. The STS service is described in detail at
For more information on Kansas Relay or to apply for free telecommunications equipment, visit the ATK Kansas Relay webpage, http://atk.ku.edu/relay or call 800-526-3648.