Monday, December 07, 2009

Amazon working on Kindle accessible for blind and visually impaired

Well, its finally happening.

Amazon is working to make an
accessible Kindle book reader
for blind users. Its not happening overnight, but is projected to be out by summer 2010.

This is indeed good news. Those of us in the blind community have seen the potential that was there ever since Amazon announced text-to-speech capabilities in the latest version of this affordable, digital book reader. Granted, there were no usable menus which were being read and the web interface wasn’t accessible, but the books could be made to play for blind users with some sighted assistance.

Having accessibility built-in seems to be a new concept and it shook up the Author’s Guild to think that there might be ways of reading their works in this fashion without them getting a slice of revenue for audio formats of their book. When they protested, Amazon backed off and allowed publishers to say whether their works can be played on the current text-to-speech solution, further crippling possible access by blind users.

However, this is all set to change as what Amazon is working on is more of a functioning screen reader that wil handle menus and such, giving unprecedented access to blind users on the Kindle.

This product should serve Amazon well, because there was a recent announcement where two colleges said they would not be able to use the Kindle as a platform for digital textbooks, because the current Kindle was inaccessible to blind and visually impaired students. The colleges paired with the
National Federation of the Blind
To say that this inaccessibility discriminated against these students by not allowing them access to course material. This would be a big hurdle for Amazon to overcome and allow a broader rollout as an accessible digital textbook reader at college campuses across America.

I’m anxious to see what grows from this project and am subscribed to their email list for updates. If you’d also like to stay informed on progress on this front, sign up by email at

I don’t know if it will happen, but I’ve requested a review unit of the accessible Kindle. If I can get one, I’ll share my thoughts here on Access Ability. Stay tuned.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey are you a professional journalist? This article is very well written, as compared to most other blogs i saw today….
anyhow thanks for the good read!