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Kindle 3: Better Accessibility, But Still Not Perfect

Improved accessibility features on the new Kindle 3 electronic book reader will help vision-impaired users, but do not yet go far enough to make the device fully accessible, a leading analyst said this month.

The Kindle 3, developed by the online retailer Amazon, features a display with improved contrast and an audible menu facility, ‘Voice Guide’, enabling users to select an e-book using sound and activate the device’s text-to-speech ‘Read to Me’ feature. The Kindle 3 also features a display with 50% improved contrast between the text and background, improving the readability of text for partially sighted users.

“The Voice Guide does improve the accessibility of the device significantly”, RNIB Principal Manager of Digital Accessibility Robin Spinks told E-Access Bulletin.
“However, certain functions are not yet possible, for example, being able to browse the electronic bookstore using text-to-speech and being able to select, purchase and download book content from the device [using Voice Guide], rather than having to do that from a computer.”

Amazon’s decision to incorporate audible menus follows growing pressure over the past year about the device’s inaccessibility to visually impaired users, much of which arose after several US universities rejected the Kindle as a teaching aid (see E-Access Bulletin issue 119: ). In January, Amazon agreed to incorporate audible menus and an extra-large font size into the Kindle (see E-Access Bulletin issue 121: ).

Furthermore, some publishers are still refusing to allow their books to be converted into text-to-speech on the Kindle, due to an ongoing row over publishing rights
(see E-Access Bulletin issue 110: ).
“We hope that through the ongoing campaign work that RNIB and other organisations are engaged in globally, we will be able to secure universal availability of text-to-speech on e-books” said Spinks. “It’s vital that blind and partially sighted people are able to be part of the e-book revolution.”

The Kindle 3 is available now in the UK. The RNIB has published a detailed accessibility review of the device and other e-book readers on its website:
Short link:


  1. dennis huckole | August 25th, 2011 | 11:41 am

    I just purchased a kindle for my wife. I am totally blind and agree the fact that a blind person is unable to select a book to purchase is not helpful. However I hope it will soon become possible to use english reading voices such as sappi 5 voices like daniel,emily etc.

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