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Amazon Kindle Accessibility

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Amazon Kindle

image: kindlebooks.jpg


The Amazon Kindle is an electronic reader. The term "Kindle" encompasses both the hardware and software. It allows the user to download books and other digital media and have them available for reading on a convenient, handheld device. Features include: the ability to download media wirelessly, a built-in dictionary, the ability to annotate and bookmark pages, page turning buttons, and a full keyboard for note-taking.

Kindle

The original Kindle was released for sale in November 2007. It featured a 6 inch (diagonal) screen, 0.8 inch thickness, and could hold up to 200 non-illustrated books with its 250 MB of internal memory. This model did not include the text-to-speech option. This model is no longer for sale.

Kindle 2

The Kindle 2 was released for sale in February 2009. It could hold up to 1500 books with 2 GB of memory. This device included the text-to-speech option, and boasted a better battery life and a reduced thickness of 0.36 inches. There is also an international version of this model, designed to support other mobile network standards.

Kindle DX

The Kindle DX was released in June 2009. It can hold up to 3500 books (4 GB of memory), has a thickness of 0.36 inches, and a 9.7 inch (diagonal) screen. This version can support PDF files and includes built-in stereo speakers.

image: kindleDx.jpg

Accessible Features

The Amazon Kindle offers some features that allow for it to be use by those with the following disabilities.

Limited Hand Function or Dexterity

The device is light (10.3 oz.) and can be easily laid in a lap or attached to a simple stand. The Kindle has buttons to allow for easier page turning than with an actual book. Severely disabled users can use a simple stick to press the page turn button.

Cognitive and Learning Disabilities

The device has a built-in dictionary and the Kindle 2 and Kindle DX have a text-to-speech feature to read words aloud.

Low Vision

Amazon claims that the device has a paper-like screen, giving the appearance of printed paper. The device has electronic-ink display technology and allows the user to read without glare or a backlight. The device also allows the user to adjust the font size for easier reading.

image: kindlepaper.jpg

Blindness

Audiobooks are available for download and the Kindle 2 and Kindle DX offer a text-to-speech option. But the device is still limited in that it requires sightedness to navigate the menus and choose which book to read before the text-to-speech feature can be utilized. Much debate has ensued regarding this inaccessibility.

Inaccessibility of the Kindle: The Debate

Amazon has received a lot of criticism for the lack of accessibility of the Kindle for the blind community. Universities have considered adopting the Kindle platform as a digital textbook format for students, but implementation has been stalled because it is not accessible to blind students.

In June 2009, the National Federation for the Blind (NFB) and the American Council of the Blind (ACB) filed suit against Arizona State University to prevent the school from using the Kindle to provide students with electronic textbooks, as this would violate the American Disabilities Act. The NFB also asked that the policies of Case Western Reserve University, the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia, Pace University, Princeton University, and Reed College be investigated. The NFB recently applauded the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Syracuse University for their anti-Kindle stance because of this issue.

In December 2009, Amazon announced that the newest version of the Kindle will incorporate audible menus to allow users with blindness, low vision, or dyslexia to fully use the device. It would allow these users to navigate through the text menus. The newest version will also include larger font sizes to accommodate readers with low vision.

References

1. http://www.amazon.com/Kindle-Wireless-Reading-Display-Generation/dp/B0015T963C Retrieved 12/5/09.

2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazon_Kindle Retrieved 12/5/09.

3. http://www.it-director.com/blogs/Abrahams_Accessibility/2007/12/Amazon_Kindle_for_people_with_disabilities.html Retrieved 12/5/09.

4. http://www.switched.com/2009/11/12/schools-shun-kindle-due-to-lack-of-accessibility-to-the-blind/ Retrieved 12/5/09.

5. http://www.nfb.org/nfb/NewsBot.asp?MODE=VIEW&ID=449 Retrieved 12/5/09.

6. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34317256/ns/technology_and_science-tech_and_gadgets/ Retrieved 12/7/09.