Amazon recently added the reading aloud feature to the Kindle and now the device will be able to read books out aloud so that e-texts are more easily accessible. This step has generally been appreciated by everyone except the National Federation of the Blind. As a result, educational institutions participating in the Kindle pilot program have refused to go ahead with further rollouts.
Although NFB’s rejection might seem counter-intuitive on the surface, it actually is’nt. The NFB does not have a problem with the feature itself (and probably does appreciate it) but they do have a problem with the menu system that contains the feature lower within the menu tree. As a result, users have to go through multiple button presses to get to it. Hence, visually impaired individuals are likely to find if extremely difficult to turn on the read aloud feature without sighted assistance. The NFB also suggests that the menus themselves should be read out aloud to the user for better universal access.
The participating universities – University Of Wisconsin-Madison and Syracuse University, New York – have declared that they will not implement the Kindle on a larger scale before it becomes more universally accessible.
Even though this is a hurdle for Amazon, it does prove that Kindle is still the only eBook reader that has made significant forays into classrooms. And this hurdle is not likely to last very long either. The demanded universal access features will no doubt be added soon because they are already commonly found in devices.
Kindle currently has a bright future in the education field if the corporation behind it plays all its cards right. And so far, the steps taken in this direction have been quite fruitful. If Kindle is fully integrated into the education system, it will probably be the beginning of a mini-revolution that will change the way education is imparted.