Before e readers and tablets came around, blind and visually impaired readers had to rely on braille, large-print, or audiobooks. Now, the visually impaired can use a Kindle or other e-reader or tablet to enlarge the font right in the screen. I can attest first-hand that reading a Kindle is much less tiresome on the eyes than reading print books.
That is definitely a huge step up from lugging large books around. No more bulky travel bags.
The font adjustments in the Kindle are very helpful for creating a less tiresome reading experience, not only for the visually impaired, but for people who don’t have any vision loss. That in turn enables us to read for as long as we want to. As long as time permits, of course.
The latest studies show that people who have central vision loss can benefit from reading on a tablet such as the iPad or Kindle Fire. The level of contrast between the text and background helps speed up the reader’s reading levels. The sharpness and clarity of the text on the background is important. On tablets, you can use either black on white, or white on black. There is also a more neutral setting that doesn’t create such sharp contrast. So, the added customization can fit the needs of more readers.
Overall, e readers have a lot of potential for opening up a world of reading and literacy for people who otherwise wouldn’t have that opportunity.
With that said, the technology still has a ways to go to meet the needs of all readers. Text-to-speech is currently a controversial service, and isn’t offered on some Kindles. Including audio menu navigation and the ability to read books via audio on the Kindle go a long way for those who can’t read print at all.
So I did a search on accessibility features for the Amazon Kindle, and found an Accessibility Plugin for Kindle for PC that includes text to speech, voice navigation, larger font sizes, high contrast modes, and more. It is compatible with screenreaders such as JAWS and NVDA.
I did an earlier post around this time last year on Kindle accessibility features that you might want to check out. It is amazing how much has changed over the course of a year. That includes both quality and price.
You can also visit the Accessibility Shortcuts page for a list of Kindle keyboard shortcuts. This makes navigation easier to use for those who can’t use the toggle button very well.
The Kindle device itself has made strides over the past couple of years to make it more accessible for people with visual impairments. Last year they introduced larger font sizes, which have been very helpful, and some books include an audio feature depending on whether the publisher allows it or not. The Kindle 3 has a much better display contrast between text and background than its successors.
As a partially sighted Kindle user, I have to say, the Kindle has drastically changed my reading experience. No more large, cumbersome books to hold right at my face. It is so light, portable, and much more comfortable to hold.
After reading my Kindle with a larger font size, I have a harder time switching back to regular books. My eyes get tired a lot quicker if I try to read the small print in a regular book. The text and background contrast is much greater on a Kindle as well.
For more about Kindle Accessibility, and other interesting accessibility news, visit the Accessibility and Technology Blog.
Since the Kindle was introduced in 2007, it has eased the burden on visually impaired readers considerably by incorporating six font size adjustment options. The font size adjustment on the Kindle is a great feature because it eliminates the need to buy heavy, cumbersome large print books. Large print books are often very expensive and are not readily available. However, more can be done to make reading more pleasurable for this group of readers.
In addition to large print books, visually impaired readers use another device called a CCTV.
A visually impaired user uses a CCTV to enlarge the font on her book.
These devices tend to run in the $4000 price range, which is a pretty hefty price tag. The reader places the book on a platform under a computer screen and adjusts the font size and color schemes to fit their reading needs. If the Kindle can include more font sizes into its options available, just imagine how much easier, less expensive and more portable reading would be for these readers!
The dream takes a closer step towards reality this summer. Amazon plans to make more font size options available during the summer of 2010, according to this WebProNews article . The amount of font size options will increase from six to eleven. The seventh font option, a “super font”, will be double the size of the largest font size currently available on the Kindle. At last, visually impaired users will be able read with comfort and not have to worry about eye strain and muscle soreness from lugging a large book around. The expense of purchasing large equipment such as the CCTV will be drastically cut by purchasing a $259 Kindle.