Amazon does not have the most glorious track record when it comes to making their devices accessible to people with vision problems. The company used to include a headphone jack in their prior Kindle models and decided to discontinue it due to competitive nature of the North American market. This has resulted in rampant protests by the National Federation of the Blind. Amazon at least is starting to take the issue of greater accessibility seriously by consulting with the Royal National Institute of Blind People in the development of the new line of HDX tablets.
The new accessible devices mean that blind and partially sighted people will be able read the full range of Kindle books, newspapers and journals in a variety of ways. The built-in screen reader allows readers to listen to titles whilst the magnification function enlarges the screen view. The device can also be used with an electronic braille display and the audio book player also supports accessibility.
The device offers access to TV and film content from LoveFilm through the device’s improved media player, meaning that a blind user can enjoy the tablet’s full range of features independently.
RNIB firmly believes that blind and partially sighted people should have access to the same choice of books as sighted people and its work encompasses both the digital and traditional worlds of publishing. Although not everyone will benefit from these new devices, increasing numbers of blind and partially sighted people are using new technology and by working collaboratively with the publishing and technology industry, the charity wants to make sure accessibility is at the fore of all new developments.
Blind reader Gary said “I feel like I have been set free in a sweet shop! The whole of the Kindle catalogue is now available to me on a Kindle device not only in synthetic speech but in braille using my electronic braille display as well”.
Some of the new features in the HDX line of tablets include Voice Guide technology will allow menu navigation to be read aloud to the user and Voice Guide Navigation will tell users what they click on. For example, if you are clicking on an ebook, it will tell you what book it is and then read the book to you when you open it.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.