For years features such as text-to-speech and adjustable font sizes have helped vision-impaired Kindle owners enjoy books more easily and those with learning disabilities to improve their reading skills. Today, Amazon announced that it is bringing “Voice Guide” and “Explore by Touch”—two new accessibility features previously available on Kindle Fire HD 8.9”—to its new standard definition Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD 7”. These features help vision-impaired customers to more easily navigate the menus and content on the device, enjoy books and audiobooks, and listen to music. These features have been available with Kindle Fire HD 8.9” since its release and will be made available on the standard definition Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD 7” early next year.
“We have heard from thousands of customers who are vision-impaired that Kindle has made a difference in their lives. With Kindle Fire HD 8.9” and soon our full line of new tablets, we are continuing our efforts to provide a range of accessibility features—Voice Guide, Explore by Touch, text-to-speech, optional text coloring and adjustable font sizes—for our vision-impaired customers,” said Dave Limp, Vice President, Amazon Kindle. “We plan to deliver additional accessibility features, so that our vision-impaired customers can have a better experience for reading, communicating and consuming media.”
Voice Guide leverages technology from IVONA, one of the leading text-to-speech software engine companies. IVONA delivers world-class pronunciations to read aloud menus with Voice Guide and books with text-to-speech for Kindle Fire tablets.
With Voice Guide navigation, any action performed by the customer on the device is read aloud. For example, when a book is launched from the library, the system will announce the book title and the fact that it has been opened, saying “The Hunger Games. Book opened.” This mode also provides immediate feedback to visually-impaired individuals for their actions on the device. Additionally, vision-impaired customers can navigate the touchscreen with Explore by Touch. In this mode, customers are able to swipe their finger across the touchscreen and as they touch an item, the system announces what item has been tapped (e.g. when touching a book in the library the book title is called out loud). A second tap on the item will perform the default action on the item (e.g. a second tap on the book would open it).
Other Kindle reader features vision-impaired customers and those with learning disabilities can take advantage of on the all new Kindle Fire tablets include:
- Text-to-speech—simultaneously reading along with the synchronized text.
- Adjustable fonts—customers can select from multiple font settings, including large font sizes for low vision, and adjust margins to allow for less text to appear on a page.
- Modify the text color to appear as white over black, black over white or sepia.
- Built-in dictionary for instant access to look up new or difficult words.
Vision-impaired customers can also take advantage of the free Kindle for PC with Accessibility Plugin reading application, which provides an accessible way to enjoy the vast Kindle library on any personal computer. The application features voice-guided menu navigation, large font sizes, high contrast reading mode, keyboard navigation and accessible shortcuts, as well as text-to-speech reading with adjustable voice settings for customers who have an external screen reader program installed on their PC.