Teach Siri About ALS Awareness
“What is ALS?”
This ALS Awareness Month, we want everyone to know the answer to that question.
Modern technology makes it easier than ever for people to get information about ALS. Search Google, Bing, or any number of other search engines or apps, and you’ll find free online resources including our own articles, infographics and videos.
Unfortunately, one way that people currently can’t learn about ALS is through Apple’s popular digital assistant app, Siri. The voice recognition program is an integrated part of all current iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, MacBooks and Mac desktop computers. Through these devices, Siri reaches a huge number of people: for example, there are more than 80 million iPhone users in the U.S. alone.
If you ask Siri “What is ALS?” on your mobile device, you’ll get the results shown in our header photo. Instead of answering the question, Siri responds with information about “.al,” the Internet domain extension for websites in the country of Albania. Although some people might want to know about Albanian website addresses, they would do so by asking Siri about “.al,” not “ALS.”
The desktop version of Siri gives a different answer that contains the letters “ALS,” only it's regarding the FAA code for a rural Colorado airport serving only one small airline (Boutique Air). It is far more likely that someone asking “What is ALS?” would actually be looking for information on ALS, the deadly disease.
Asking “What is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis?” doesn’t work much better, since Siri doesn’t appear able to recognize “amyotrophic” as a word.
Help Make a Change
We’re not suggesting that anyone at Apple has done anything wrong. Siri is just an app that interprets and answers questions based on its programming. For most questions, it does this automatically; the programmers don’t choose the correct answer for every possible question.
However, we do know that Apple can reprogram Siri to answer specific questions in a specific way, because they’ve done exactly that in the past to raise awareness for other issues (or even just to promote a new movie).
So, for ALS Awareness Month, we’re asking Apple to update Siri so that anyone who asks “What is ALS?” will get a response that actually gives information about the disease.
Besides making it easier for people to learn about ALS, getting Apple to make the change will likely bring further awareness to the cause. News outlets tend to report whenever Siri’s responses are changed, and any such publicity would help spread the word about ALS awareness.
We need your help to make it happen. To get Apple’s attention, we’ve started an online petition asking the company to change Siri’s responses to ALS questions. The more people who sign the petition, the more we can make it clear to Apple that the change is worth making.
Do your part by:
Signing the petition (it’s quick and free), and
Encouraging other people to do the same! You can simply share the link to the petition, or to this blog post, on your social media accounts, and tag it with #ALSAware.
With your help, we believe we can make this happen, and make a real difference in ALS awareness.
What is ALS? Siri needs an update!
ALS Association started this petition with a single signature, and won with 3,962 supporters. Start a petition to change something you care about.