By David Faucheux, a freelance audiobook reviewer for Library Journal. The views are not necessarily LJ’s. Also see TeleRead’s Rx for the Kindle text-to-speech mess—to help blind and sighted alike.
I’ve been blind most of my life. But I hold a masters degree in library and information science and am comfortable with tech although I’m not a full-fledged expert.
TeleRead asked me in July if I would consider reviewing the recently released $80 basic Amazon Kindle. It brings back the text-to-speech accessibility that had existed in older versions. But there is an ugly Catch 22 for blind people.
Just how can we benefit from the built-in audio VoiceView tutorial and related guidance in the already-loaded users’ guide if we don’t know how to use the screen reader in the first place? You must drill down too far in the menus to reach text-to-speech features.
Unfortunately this typifies Amazon’s seeming lack of understanding and empathy in considering the needs of blind people. My Kindle arrived several weeks ago without information in Braille. Simple instructions could have pointed to a list of VoiceView gestures for the 8th generation Kindle on the Web, as well as guidance for using Bluetooth headphones. My Kindle does not include a speaker.
I would find out about the above Web pages only much later after David Rothman, TeleRead’s publisher, Googled around (far simpler for a sighted person to do).
Ideally I would not even have had to go online for the information. When blind people or their friends log on the Amazon site and order Kindles with text to speech, they should be able to buy Braille guides that explain TTS and the devices in general. Third-party publishers do a great job for purchasers of Apple devices. Amazon’s Kindle page for the basic model could also have identified Bluetooth headphones that would be especially blind-friendly.
Without a Braille guide to help me master the Kindle, I Googled hoping to find information online.
I located a podcast I’d heard about earlier, Eyes on Success, which featured an interview with Peter Korn, accessibility architect at Amazon. Then I visited an Amazon accessibility page mentioned in the show notes. I felt lost and rather overwhelmed. There was so much information and so many links.
Sighted help needed: Why couldn’t Amazon let me do this on my own?
So I phoned my brother, an IT support staffer for a parish school system here in Louisiana. He came over and helped me figure out how to use my Bluetooth headphones to turn on the Kindle ereader, charge it, and download two ebooks, 1536: The Year That Changed Henry VIII and A London Year – 365 Days of City Life in Diaries, Journals and Letters. None of those processes were intuitive or easy. I am still not certain how to download ebooks. There is no receive-one-free-ebook promotion with the purchase of a Kindle, either.
I later had to ask my brother to return because I could not activate the speech feature. He experimented with turning on the Kindle before switching on the Bluetooth headphones. That worked.
Hoping to understand some of the several icons that appeared on the Kindle screen— seemingly randomly—I emailed firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance. Where might I find documentation to demystify my Kindle? Amazon replied that I could email a PDF version of the Kindle documentation to my ereader or send the instructions to my main email address. I ended the call feeling totally lost. No one pointed me to the VoiceView command list and Bluetooth tips that David found on the Web. Better, I could have benefited from step-by-step written guidance offline before I turned on the Kindle. Then I would have felt much more comfortable with the actual Kindle experience.
Later I received an email asking me to rate the customer service call. I explained that I had not found it helpful. I added that I thought Amazon might have considered working with a blindness consumer organization to develop a brochure that National Braille Press could publish. Jonathan Mosen or Anna Dresner or someone at Mystic Access could have written the brochure.
Step by step, the brochure might have shown Kindle novices how to select a book, read it, rewind or fast forward in the text, pause, resume, turn pages, skip ahead, look up a word in the dictionary, or download a different book. Perhaps, too, someone (Mystic Access?) might have produced an audio-described YouTube tutorial for blind and partially sighted people, taking a novice user through the adventure of obtaining and using an ebook. It is not too late, Amazon. Please arrange for the Braille guide and other helpful documentation to be available without blind people having to figure out the Kindle first. Talk about a chance for positive PR! An Amazon employee, in fact, agreed in his reply to my Bezos letter that Braille documentation would be useful.
While I’ve received responses from Amazon, they have not helped me at all. Meanwhile I have continued to explore the device, counting it as a good day if I can get it to come up talking, and if I manage to find my book in the Recents section. It is the strangest feeling—I do not yet own an iDevice, so I don’t normally use touch screens—to skate a finger across a slick surface and hear various icons fade in and out, sometimes there and sometimes not. I must put up with a mysterious menu structure of “now you hear it, now you don’t” clues.
How could Amazon make the Kindle more useful to me, beyond providing better documentation for blind people? Obviously a simpler menu structure would help. I also wonder how much Amazon tested the Kindle on blind people—typical blind people, not technically inclined ones—before releasing the basic Kindle with TTS.
I’m curious about something else. How many blind people does Amazon employ in tech support to help other blind users? Remember, Amazon is a global corporation with the resources to do this. I also wonder if Amazon offers sufficient training to sighted experts in support so they can help blind people and sighted individuals with vision challenges. I have heard that Apple and Microsoft carefully prepare sighted people to help the blind. Microsoft customers with disabilities can even call up a special accessibility desk (1-800-936-5900).
If I have trouble, how about other blind people?
Just remember my own struggle with the basic Kindle’s TTS. I’m not a coder or even a nerd—some brilliant blind people leave me in the dust—but at least I know how to parse a typical manual. If mastering my Kindle has been a problem for someone with my knowledge and experience, imagine how hard the VoiceView commands will be to learn for the average blind person.
And what about K-12 students? Can any school system buy Kindles in good conscience for blind students and expect the ereaders to be good learning tools if the kids can’t even understand the basics of VoiceView?
Does Amazon really think that blind geniuses or teachers with doctorates in Advanced Kindle Studies will be at every school to explain the technology?
New York recently awarded Amazon a $30 million contract to deliver ebooks to public schools. It didn’t include hardware, but that might follow in time. I dread all the frustrations of blind kids, not to mention the waste of local tax money, which could result unless Amazon gets its accessibility act together.
Accessibility would also help sighted people with contrast sensitivity issues and other sight challenges that could interfere with full enjoyment of the Kindle. Despite requests from David Rothman and others over the years, Amazon refuses to include an all-text bolding option in Kindles. Also good would be a choice of TTS voices in the basic Kindle. I’ve heard that the current high-pitched female voice is harder for many older people to understand than a male voice would be. Did Amazon even try out the present voice on actual users?
My own Kindle challenges notwithstanding, I hope Amazon will not give up and won’t satisfy itself with so-so compliance with any relevant accessibility laws. Many of us blind people would love to go mainstream as readers, and the Kindle offers a much wider selection of books than I could find elsewhere.
I see hope in the Kindle—not just for me but for the company—if Amazon will care about us more. Beyond purchasing Kindles and other devices, we might even buy a few books.
Update: David Faucheux reviewed the Kindle we sent him, the new $70 basic model. We’ve been reminded that with a recent Paperwhite and an audio adapter, the TTS would have come on without all the hassles. But there would still have been the other navigation and documentation issues. The Paperwhite-adapter combo has drawn few reviews, but for what it’s worth, the rating is 1.8 out of five stars.
Publisher’s note: David (email@example.com) lives in Lafayette, Louisiana, and is the author of a self-published book, Kaleidoscope: A Year in the Life of a Blind Person, which will be available in the next few months on Amazon and Smashwords. Meanwhile, with his permission, we are reproducing a note that he wrote firstname.lastname@example.org, followed by the letter that came back from company. We’ve slightly edited David Faucheux’s note. – D.R.
David Faucheux’s note to email@example.com
Dear Mr. Bezos:
In early July, David Rothman, publisher of TeleRead, asked me to review a Kindle eReader. He had learned that this device now has text-to-speech capability. I had just learned that a popular podcast, Eyes on Success, had featured as guest, Peter Korn who sang the praises of this technology. So I excitedly waited for the device to be UPS-ed here.
In late July, I received a Kindle eReader and a set of blue-tooth enabled headphones which the device required to speak.
My adventure began!
I ended up needing sighted help to activate the speech. Nowhere in the packing materials did I find a braille brochure, such as those produced by National Braille Press for the iPhone, that might have walked me through some getting-started steps. On Amazon’s Web page for Kindle accessibility, I did not locate any documentation that explained the layout of the home screen, what types of screens would appear if you tapped an icon, how to use email, and even the dictionary.
I struggled to learn the auditory landmarks on the home screen. I noticed that a right swipe occasionally read at least one icon that did not read in a left swipe. My brother helped me purchase two eBooks so that I would have something to practice my commands and reading skills on. The Recents icon sometimes showed 1536: The Year That Changed Henry VIII and sometimes A London Year – 365 Days of City Life in Diaries, Journals and Letters. I could never figure out the reasoning and what might make one appear and not the other and where the other was hiding.
I emailed Devicefirstname.lastname@example.org and waited over a week and heard nothing. I then telephoned the 888-280-4331 number and spoke to a person who said I could use my Kindle email address to email the PDF file that documented the Kindle to my Google email address. Would that have worked? In any event, I was in a Catch 22 situation of needing to read the documentation to learn how to email myself the same documentation. I gave up. I was sent via email a customer service survey. I decided to answer it though one rarely receives any incentive to do so: example, $10 worth of Amazon credit.
I asked for better documentation and to be connected to any specially-trained blind Amazon employees who might give me pointers that only blind people would really know and understand. I suggested that we be able to connect our Kindles to a computer using the usb charge cable so that we could simply paste books to our Kindles after we download our purchases to our desktops. I wondered if Jonathan Mosen or Anna Dresner, people associated with National Braille Press, might be interested in designing a braille getting-started brochure for this device as they have done for the iPhone and iWatch. I suggested that perhaps a YouTube tutorial could be developed. I simply do not know where to go to get directions. This is not overly intuitive. The audible screens seem somehow jumpy and nervous. I accidentally turned on my Kindle before turning on the earphones, and totally messed up the voice feature. My brother had to rescue me again.
I received a rather wordy, even nebulous, response that wondered if I might want a specially designed blind Kindle and then the person listed all the versions of the Kindle that used speech and the versions of Windows that might run a Kindle app.
Lastly, I also would suggest that the home icon be a physical button on the bottom of the screen and that the power-on button be a bit easier to feel and more defined.
Thank you for a chance to explain my adventure with the Kindle. I may end up having to simply return it to Mr. Rothman and hope he finds a more tech savvy blind person to do this device justice.
The response David Faucheux received from Amazon after writing Jeff Bezos
From: Amazon.com [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Thursday, August 25, 2016 11:48 AM
Subject: Your Email to Jeff Bezos Re: Concerning the Kindle eReader and Its Speaking Ability
I’m Paul Garcia of Amazon’s Tech Support Executive Customer Relations. Jeff Bezos received your email and asked me to respond on his behalf.
I want to apologize for the inconveniences that you’re experiencing with our Kindle device and its text-to-speech feature, we certainly want to make sure you get the best experience when using our devices and feedback like yours helps us continue to improve the service we provide, and we’re glad you took the time to write to us, therefore I’ve shared your feedback with the Kindle developers team for their consideration. I do believe it is a great idea to have a braille brochure with instructions.
Regarding the compatibility of the personal documents, you can send personal documents and web content to your registered Kindle e-readers, Fire tablets, and supported Kindle reading apps, and archive to your Kindle Library in the Manage Your Content and Devices page through a Send to Kindle application, or through your Send to Kindle email address as mentioned by Ken A. You can learn more about sending personal documents to your Kindle e-reader, Fire tablet, and supported Kindle reading apps at:
Again, we appreciate your time in writing to us, and I hope you have a great day. Our customer service team will be able to help if you have any remaining questions or concerns; please contact them here: http://www.amazon.com/contact-us.
Thank you for your inquiry. Did I solve your problem?
If yes, please click here:
If no, please click here:
Tech Support Executive Customer Relations Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com
Nice work. Will you be reviewing other devices in future? I would be very interested in getting your take on the iPad which claims to be highly accessible.
I can’t say if I’ll review anything else. I much appreciate your inquiry though. I’m not techy enough to really enjoy reviewing and have had some computer troubles of late with my text-to-speech screen reader. It can be tricky when using several bits of adaptive tech, a screen reader and, say, a Braille display, because you can risk being told by the Braille display people that the problem is with the speech component, and vice versa. Perhaps, I may review something later. But I tend to jinx my adaptive tech and just feel rather fossiliferous.
@Frank: Thanks! Not as sure about the iPad. What made the post special is that my blind friend, David Faucheux, wrote it based on his first-hand experiences. I could afford to buy him a $70 Kindle. Not so sure about a recent iPad 😉 The good news is that David is thinking about buying an iPhone, and you can bet I’ll be just as thrilled to publish that post. Perhaps we’ll wait until until the new OS is out.
To be clear, I reveiwed this feature back in July and i found the basic Kindle useless as an accessible ereader.
That said, I see a few problems with your post.
“My Kindle arrived several weeks ago without information in Braille.”
Braille would not help with this ereader; there are two many points where you have to see the screen to set up the accessibility feature. And it’s not necessary for the Paperwhite, which only requires that you plug in the USB accessory to activate this feature.
Speaking of which, why did you get this model and not the Paperwhite? Basic research should have revealed that this model would be harder to use.
If an iPhone or iPad would fit your needs better than a Kindle, but you’re finding the Apple Tax a bit much, look into a refurb model. Bought from Apple, what you get differs little from buying new but for the pretty packaging. Bought from 3rd party vendors, you get less of a guarantee but save more money. You also may have to wait for one to get in stock. The plus with 3rd party vendors, if that matters to you, is that cellular models are often priced only a little above WiFi only.
Just take care to get one new enough to run the version of iOS you’ll need. And be aware that Apple’s low-end versions tend to have too little storage—16 GB. Unless your needs are simple, you’ll want at least 32 GB.
For iPhones, check out Craigslist for your community. With a lot of people going for larger screen iPhones, you can probably get a good deal on one with a smaller screen.
Just be sure that it is not stolen or blacklisted by cellular companies. In my case, as I bought my iPhone 5, I called the Verizon reseller I wanted to use, Page Plus, and confirmed that they’d accept it. That done, buying was risk-free. And Page Plus means I get Verizon coverage at half the price.
And if you don’t mind a smaller screen, Apple’s new iPhone SE, designed for less affluent markets, offers quite a bit of power for what is, for Apple, a fairly reasonable price. You’ll be paying more than you’d pay for a used iPhone 5s, but getting one that’s fast enough not to need replacing for years. That may be worth paying a bit more. I’d suggest gritting your teeth and paying an extra $100 for 64G of storage.
Look around and you might even swing a used iPhone SE. Not everyone finds they like that smaller screen.
@Mike: Excellent advice! David, in fact, is considering a used iPhone 6.
Ah, Nate. A little empathy, please. The reviewer, David Faucheux, is a blind guy. Your own writeup in effect was trying to anticipate the Kindle TTS experience for people like him. David actually lived it. I rather doubt he’s a regular reader of The Digital Reader. He reached his conclusions on his own, thank you. Furthermore, David wrote in considerably more depth than you did in your post, a fraction of the length of his. You do not own the news.
More importantly, Bluetooth is just the start of the Kindle line’s TTS problems for blind people. I do want to see if the Kindle audio adapter for the Paperwhite will work with the new basic Kindle (regardless of some people’s speculation to the contrary)–which would remove the Bluetooth issue that preoccupied you. But that aside, the real problem is difficulty of use even with Bluetooth in place, partly due to the documentation hassles, partly due to the menu structure, about which David wrote a lot more than you did. Even the Paperwhite with the adapter has too complicated a menu structure for the blind.
I’m disappointed that you would callously nitpick at a blind guy’s work just to promote your blog. Jeeze. We’re ebook bloggers, not Trump and Hillary, and comments like this will not help your job search or your WordPress business. Very bad PR.
A link to your site for another perspective and mention of the Paperwhite and the audio adapter would have been fine. Bashing a blind guy, rather than praising him for his hard work on his review, is not.
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“I do want to see if the Kindle audio adapter for the Paperwhite will work with the new basic Kindle”
Nope. As I mentioned in my post, I tried the USB dongle. It didn’t work, otherwise I would have recommended using that option instead.
I wish it had worked; that would have redeemed the Voiceview feature on the basic Kindle.
@Nate: I have just verified that the adapter won’t work on the basic Kindle. That said, the Paperwhite with the adapter is not nirvana. There are still issues.
@Nate: On top of everything else the adapter-Paperwhite combination drew only four reviews. The average rating was 1.8 out of five stars. Hardly a large sample. But if nothing else, the small number of reviews might indicate that the combo wasn’t good enough to draw much traction.
I also checked out the reviews of the adapter by itself. Just eight reviews and a mere 3.2 out of five stars. All or nearly all the reviewers were sighted. Someone named S. Lynn summed up the situation well with the following words: “Needs more work.”
He or she went on to say: “I bought the Kindle Paperwhite with the Audio Adapter to replace Kindle Touches that I currently own. I was hoping that this would be wonderful as I would have both the lights for reading in low-light settings and the text-to-speech capability for when I was driving in the car. First off, there were no direction on how to use the adaptor except for how to plug it in. Once you have it plugged in and the Kindle turned on, it will give some directions-but not many. To say that it didn’t have enough information is a huge understatement.”
Exactly! For both the basic Kindle and the Paperwhite with the adapter, a third-party Braille guide and simpler menus would have helped people feel comfortable. And remember, this guy was sighted.
Reblogged this on Don Massenzio's Blog.
Reblogged this on Matthews' Blog.
I think it is important to set some context: as far as screen readers go, the one for Kindle is the simplest out there. It takes considerably longer to learn how to use VoiceOver (on iOS) or TalkBack (on Android) or VoiceView on Fire OS, as those devices are much more complex to navigate. These do not come with Braille instructions either, but they sell in much larger numbers and have had accessibility features for some years, so resources for learning (including people who can help someone get started) are more readily available.
VoiceView on the Kindle is a relatively new development. I would expect additional learning resources to develop over time as more people take an interest and create these. But Amazon’s Help pages (once you find them, google ‘kindle voiceview bluetooth setup’) are a good place to start and are pretty comprehensive.
A great resource for learning about new technology from perspective of the blind is Main Menu podcast: http://mainmenu.acbradio.org/. Amazon representatives have done walk throughs of VoiceView on the Kindle, Fire and Fire TV in past episodes.
@TomS: Many thanks for your own perspective. But “simplest,” as you describe it, still isn’t good enough, especially when an ereader is less complicated than a multipurpose device.
The documentation is also lacking. Certainly Amazon could have arranged from day one for easy-to-find, truly useful documentation online and on paper via third-party Braille guides. Ideally it would even have consulted with blind-specialized documentation writers in designing the basic Kindle. I wonder, for that matter, how many blind people were involved in the product design, and how technical they were. Amazon needs to offer TTS for blind people in general, not just blind techies (and it also wouldn’t hurt to provide a decent TTS interface for nonblind people!).
Are you yourself blind? And if so, have you actually tried the basic Kindle, the way David Faucheux did. Why the devil should Amazon expect users to Google “kindle voiceview bluetooth setup”? Surely a multi-billion-dollar corporation can do better than that.
I don’t understand why you are so eager to defend Amazon with your “context,” given the problems David encountered. Just out of curiosity, I wonder if you have any direct or indirect business connections with Amazon or rely on the company for product previews or other special information as a journalist. I’d hope you’d mean well, but quite unwittingly you’re hurting people like David Faucheux when you try to rationalize away the current mess. Amazon has many positives—I love Kindle hardware in most respect, and the company is very possibly my leading source of electronics. But in accessibility, it could do much better.
Meanwhile, perhaps you can point us to the exact ABC Radio page where the reps explained VoiceView for the basic model if one exists. I assume you’re just giving the walk-throughs as an example of past efforts. Fine. But that’s just not going to cut it for David F. right now.
Addendum: I see now that you’re software engineer, at least if the Google clues are on target. If so, that would explain how you feel the way you do. I’m 100 percent certain you’re sincere and well meaning, and I doubt any financial interest is involved, but please try harder to empathize more with ordinary users, especially people with special needs such as David Faucheux.
I don’t see this as being as much of a mess as you do, it seems more of a ‘glass two-thirds full’ to me, the hardware and software do fulfill basic accessibility requirements for a viable v1.0 release. The rest is a communications issue.
It is not perfect. Very few 1.0 releases of anything are. But if people actually use it and provide feedback and suggestions, it will get better. For example, I’d like to see Kindle Store and Sharing accessible with VoiceView. And a way to pause and resume playback more easily (with Bluetooth headset pause/resume button on Kindle). I have not figured out how to pause/resume cleanly with touch gestures, and none is documented. And I have to turn volume all the way up on the Kindle to have a normal level via my headset.
Amazon would do well to have a Braille and printed document that one could order for free, with a link to it from the Help pages. And their web team could do a better job of making discovery and accessibility of support information easier (amazon.com/access provides a more ‘stripped down’ view designed to make the storefront more accessible to screen reader technology, but why not Help as well?)
http://mainmenu.acbradio.org/shows.php is the show list, there are at least 2 or 3 shows that discuss amazon hardware, a few months ago. These were prior to Kindle ship date.
Is David F up and running? If not, what issues are remaining?
I have comments to read, however, I want to point out that there are other options:
1) the Kindle app on iOS and Android. The app is free. It works great on an iPhone, or even something as inexpensive as an iPod Touch, with the Voiceover gestures that are probably familiar to most. Very responsive too, if not perfect. I expect it also works with Talkback, but I don’t have firsthand experience with this.
2. The Fire tablets, which are even cheaper than the $80 Kindle. $50 will get you an 8GB Fire tablet with an SD card slot. For the price, it’s a pretty good tablet. While accessibility gestures, at least in my experience, need to be fairly exaggerated to reliably and consistently register, the Voiceview tutorial comes up first thing if you enable it during setup. This is accomplished by holding the power button until you hear the little chime, then holding two fingers slightly apart in the center of the screen until prompted to release. It works, and while I don’t like it as much as I do the app on an iDevice, for $50 it ain’t bad.
@Buddy: I appreciate your thoughts. E Ink readers have their special advantages ranging from light weight to long battery life. Via the Facebook link I do notice you’ve worked in tech support. Clearly you’re more sophisticated about the tech than the average blind user. Do put yourself in David Faucheux’s place. He himself is above average by blind tech standards, but still had difficulty. Happy TTSing! David
Of course, working in tech support (well, formerly anyway, I’m doing something a little different these days), it’s kind of incumbent on me to do just that. No, I’d never say that the Fire tablets are perfect or even necessarily easy. As I said, certainly the gestures that operate it have to be exaggerated. There are lots of other challenges with it as well. I actually agree with what he’s saying about how difficult finding documentation is. Could Amazon do better? Absolutely could, and should, do better. You’ll get no argument from me on that score. I don’t think I said anything different. I would agree that getting to the tutorial is hard on the tablets as well, if someone activates the Fire first and skips the tutorial. I also didn’t say, and probably should have, that the tutorial only explores the basics of Voiceview’s use. It’s enough to get you started, but that’s about it.
I don’t know about the Kindle Eink readers, whether they have the same voices available or not. I know the tablets have a couple voices available, including a male voice that may be easier for some to hear.
I also don’t know how much, if at all, battery life is impacted on the Kindles when using Voiceview. Would we realize the battery usage advantages? I’m not sure.
If you thought I was attacking or arguing with the author’s points or observations, that’s absolutely my fault for not being clearer, because that was never my intent.
@TomS: I very much appreciated those useful suggestions you’ve made for Amazon. Thanks. Of course I myself would respond that the glass is still two thirds empty, not two thirds full. Amazon has around long enough to know what has to be done in the area of accessibility.
@Buddy: I very much appreciate your clarification, including your acknowledgment that Amazon could do better on accessibility matters. You’ve also made it clear you were not trying to take away from David Faucheux’ message.
Alas, Amazon needs to improve its choice of voice(s). The only voice apparently available on the new basic Kindle is too high-pitched for some older people to understand the narration optimally.
Battery life? There is a drain. But if Amazon offered TTS convenient not only for blind people but also sighted ones, some users might use TTS only part of the time – making battery life less of an issue. Beyond that older people with arthritic hands often find light ereaders easier to hold them tablets.
Anyway, I hope that both you and Tom S will stay tuned tomorrow (perhaps the afternoon), when I’m going to do a post telling how Amazon could offer a much easier interface for blind people to do away with the Catch-22 the David Faucheux described.
Another podcast that covers technology and acessibility is ‘The Blind Geek Zone’, http://blind-geek-zone.net/feed. Nothing about Amazon devices AFAICT.
As an English lecturer, I spend a lot of time thinking about how books and libraries can be made more accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired. I think ereaders are a great solution though I agree with others here that they’re not perfect, especially for the sort of close reading and note taking required of students and professionals. I also agree that device help and documentation can and should be easier to find.
That said, my first thought on reading about David F’s trials with Kindle accessibility was that a large part of his difficulty stems from his not having any experience with touch screens. Many younger assistive tech users have iPhones, iPads, or Androids–all touch-screen devices–so their first encounter with the Kindle would be less overwhelming and chaotic Than David’s. I’m not diminishing his experience. Library patrons who are relatively new to blindness may also be inexperienced with the touch-screenTTS combo. I’m simply pointing out that David was dealing with two learning curves, one for the Kindle and another for the touch screen, like being asked to evaluate an electronic form without knowing how to use a qwertty keyboard.
If ereaders are being implemented in libraries, I think Amazon can make braille and large print command lists available on request, and I think librarians should be trained to use the ereader’s accessibility features (without looking at the screen, of course) so they can train patrons in the basics. These seem to me to be two relatively simple and low-cost ways of opening libraries up to people who are blind and visually impaired.
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I understand from friends that the touch screen action on a zKindle is vastly different than on an iDevice. I know from personal exploration that there are bits at the very bottom of the screen that I can only access by using the very edge of a fingernail, the stuff that says the location you are in a book, and I think there are other bits such as how much you have read in a chapter. It’s so mysterious, I really don’t understand it well. I worked through the voice tutorial too, and it helped just a bit.
I’m interested to see what I can find for my father. He has a kindle paperwhite that we gave him last year at Christmas and he loves it. Has down loaded many books. The issue now is that his macular degeneration has gotten worse in his other eye and now he has to have the text extremely large to read. If the MD continues to worsen he would need a kindle with text-to- speech capability. All I could find was the “adapter” that plugs into the kindle and then you plug headphones into it. I have no way of knowing if it’s compatible with the paperwhite he currently has or if we will need to look at getting a brand new kindle.
@Jodie: My guess is that the adapter will work fine since your father’s Paperwhite is still fairly recent. But check with Amazon support. The real issue is that text to speech may be harder to master than it should be. Amazon could’ve done a better job with documentation. Given how much your father loves reading, however, the effort may well be worth it. Best of luck. Please keep us posted!
As a registered blind Kindle user, I found this article of great interest.
I agree that the production of braille guidance would be of great assistance.
When purchasing Kindle content, I use my laptop (with JAWS screen reading software) to purchase titles, which are then sent automatically to my Kindle. I wouldn’t even attempt to try doing this using my Kindle (which is a shame as I shouldn’t need to download using my laptop).
Best wishes – Kevin
My wife has macular degeneration and wanted to use text to speech on her Kindle. I have twenty years IT experience and found it awful to set up and use. It activated on her Paperwhite without any tutorial and I have had to research how to use it by Googling. The information that comes back differs depending on the Kindle model and its age and the firmware it is on. Personally neither my wife and I use smartphones much and so we are totally ignorant of swipe gestures, so this is completely new too. Describing this as ‘accessibility’ seems more than ironical to me.
Hi Mark. I am sorry to read of the problems your wife has been experiencing with the text to speech facility on the Kindle. I am registered blind, I can see outlines but possess no useful vision in terms of reading screens including the one on Kindles. I appreciate that you and your wife don’t have much experience with smart phones. However, if you do decide to use an iPhone the Kindle app on Apple devices is, in my experience very accessible. In fact I don’t use my Kindle device any more, I prefer the app on my phone. I hope you find a workable solution. Best wishes. Kevin