E-Readers and technology to assist the Blind

When someone is visually impaired and loves literature, it is often a daunting endeavour to read the books by the authors they love, or to discover new authors. When someone is near sighted, blind or has dyslexia it is tremendously difficult to read books, or menus unless they are in brail or to listen to audio books.

E-Books and E-Readers not only are designed for portable reading, but they also save you a ton of money in the long-term. Brail books are often very expensive and most of the times their selection of books are not widely available. The whole point of an e-reader is to save money buying digital books instead of tangible books.

E-Readers with text to speech functions such as the Amazon Kindle are hard to turn on, and people may need assistance to even turn the function on. During Pilot programs at two major American Universities, the National Federation of the Blind has sued the schools saying the Kindle is discriminating because without assistance blind people cannot utilize the functions. Amazon.com Inc. spokesman Drew Herdener said many visually impaired customers have asked Amazon to make the Kindle easier to navigate. The company is working on it, he said.

Amazon is soon releasing an SDK to developers to allow independent companies and people to make custom applications. Amazon is banking that companies will make this new technology for them which will give the company a stronger foothold on educational institutions.
There is promise with new technology to assist visually impaired people, with the Intel corporation. Intel is pioneering new emerging technologies that seek to aid people being released shortly that should assist people who have a hard time reading books.

intel blind e-reader

Intel Corp announced a new e-reader that can snap pictures of books and newspapers and then read them back to people who have a hard time reading the printed page.

Called the Intel Reader, the $1,499 device assists people who are blind, dyslexic or have weak vision. Intel estimates that there are as many as 55 million people in the U.S. who could use its device. This new E-Reader will give many visually impaired people a new freedom to read books, magazines and newspapers that would otherwise be inaccessible. Users hold the Reader a few feet above the paper they want to read; it snaps a photo, and within seconds converts the page to text, which it can then display in a large font or read out loud.

There is also new software made by KFNB. The eReader software (which will be available for free) will run on several smart phones and operating systems including the iPhone, PCs, Macs, and Windows Mobile with more mobile devices to come. The software will allow eBooks, articles and other textual material to be read out load on these devices. The software can handle many text formats including PDF and ePub. Elsevier Science and Technology Books is an early partner.

KFNB also offers other software, KReader Mobile and the knfbReader Mobile which, like the Intel Reader, allows users to snap pictures of text and then have it read back to them immediately. However, unlike the Intel product, these devices work on cell or smart phones.

yanko e-reader

Finally, there are new concept devices from Yanko Designs, a team of four designers are showcasing this Braille ebook reader. According to the developers, the concept for driving the technology is already here–all that’s needed is a friendly neighborhood investor to toss some money their way.

Electroactive polymers are used to create different letter configurations when the pages are turned. Although this idea misses one crucial and disturbing fact. Only 10% of America’s blind kids (down from 50% in the ’60s) are taught to read & write Braille, still the only tool offering true literacy to blind people on a par with print. It affects all of us , because it results in lower employment of blind adults & the need for tax-payer support of intelligent and willing people. Seventy percent of working-age, blind adults are unemployed. Of the thirty percent who work, ninety percent read Braille. The coin supports the Braille Readers are Leaders” campaign of the National Federation of the Blind, which seeks to double the number of blind kids learning Braille by 2015.

We will be covering the best e-readers with text to speech functions in our Good E-Reader Magazine for the May edition. Sign up today for the April issue! It costs only $1.99! Please give us your support. Also check back on our Good E-Reader Blog daily for news.

Michael Kozlowski (5147 Posts)

Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about electronic readers and technology for the last four years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the Huffington Post, CNET and more. Michael frequently travels to international events such as IFA, Computex, CES, Book Expo and a myriad of others. If you have any questions about any of his articles, please send an email to michael@goodereader.com

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  • Anthony Guy

    I have a sister who is blind and difficult to find gifts for. With the holidays rapdily approaching, i contacted Amazon and asked if any of their Kindles are not reliant on touch-screen technology. I was sent a list of the machines that are supposedly Blind-friendly. While scanning the list and viewing the products, it sure seemed as if they were mistaken. Many of the Talking Books are seriously abridged from the original composition. They make  a good escape for the person who listens on a car cassette deck while driving to work, but as far as using the writer’s gift of words, they are a poor substitute. I tried contacting Barnes & Noble about the Nook to se what they have to offer, but their e-mail  wouldn’t connect me. ( Do their computers have Sundays off?) I’m stunned that nobody has marketed a reasonably priced alternative to these e-readers that are based on tactile sense as opposed to visual cues. I’m still searching.