August 1st update, 2010: The new Kindle 3 has Accessible Menus, it has Text to Speech, and the Kindle 2.5 upgrade had supersized fonts. These combine to make the Kindle 3 blind accessible and a great choice for blind and low vision readers.
Amazon had promised audible menus a long time ago and that feature probably took a backstage to things like PDF Support. Now, thanks in part to the National Federation of the Blind’s hounding of the Kindle DX trials in universities, Amazon have announced that the Kindle and the Kindle DX will be made accessible to blind and low vision people by summer 2010.
There are two main features planned -
- The menu system will be made audible so blind and low vision people don’t have to struggle with it. Note that the menu screen cannot be resized at the moment so it was a hindrance even to low vision readers.
- There will be a new ‘super-size font’ – The current largest font on kindle 2 was around Microsoft Word 20 point size. Double of that sounds very promising.
Since the Kindle DX has an even larger largest font size and a larger screen (2.5 times larger) the super size font on the DX will be really, really big and ought to cover even vision impaired people who need more than 40 point size.
Engadget talk about it and think it’s a dig at the Nook.
I think it’s Amazon learning from the shellacking they took at the hands of the NFB and having two universities pull out of the Kindle DX trials for the sake of political correctness.
Thoughts on a Kindle accessible for the blind and vision impaired
- It’s a good move by Amazon and it will help a ton of people and sell a lot more Kindles.
- The menu navigation was perhaps the biggest stumbling block and adding an audible menu is a very good step.
- There have been requests for larger font sizes and the super size font is also a killer feature.
Here are other kindle accessibility features that hopefully the Kindle team considers and adds (at least some of them) -
- Little bumps on the page turn, home, and menu buttons – make them different for different keys. This helps even normal readers. This would have to be in Kindle 3 and Kindle DX 2.
- Add on more than one supersize font – There’s a balance between readable font and how many words per page you like. Just one super-size font is a bit limited.
- Perhaps (since it’s a big change) a keyboard that has the alphabets carved into it – not braille as that would be too extreme – however, some way for people to feel through the keys.
- An audible time function.
- An audible status indicator for battery life and the wireless connection.
- Audible store browsing in the Kindle Store.
- More speed options in the Read To Me feature.
- Improved voices in the Read To Me feature – This might not happen as it would scare Publishers into disabling the feature.
The Kindle has added a lot of features in 2009. It would have been nice if Amazon had managed to add accessible features too – However, late is better than never and making the Kindle blind accessible by summer of 2010 is still a very good move on Amazon’s part.