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Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Free Kindle Software with Accessibility Features

Amazon.com has released Kindle for PC that adds accessibility features designed for blind and low-vision customers.

Kindle for PC with Accessibility Plugin is a free, downloadable application for your Windows PC. It provides the following accessibility features: text-to-speech reading with adjustable voice settings, voice-guided menu navigation, large font sizes, high contrast reading mode, keyboard navigation, and accessible shortcuts.

With this software, for the first time ever, the entire collection of English language books in the Kindle Store can be read aloud. With over 750,000 English language titles, Amazon offers the largest selection of accessible ebooks. In order to use the text-to-speech feature, an external screen reader program must be installed and running on the Windows PC.

"We welcome your feedback at kindle-PC-accessibility-feedback@amazon.com".

The free download is available at http://www.amazon.com/kindle/accessibility. The download is large because it comes with Nuance Tom and Jenifer 22khz voices. Important keyboard shortcuts to know include:

  • ctrl-r, reads using the supplied voice, not your installed software synth.
  • ctrl-d, adds or deletes a bookmark
  • ctrl-shift-v, switches between Tom and Jenifer
  • ctrl-shift-c, switches between continuous and single page reading
  • F5 syncs reading position with a Kindle on your account
  • Left and right arrows move back and forth by page
  • ctrl-I provides limited instructions

Kindle version for PC also provides some significant advantages to low vision users. In addition to the larger fonts that were already available on the Kindle device, the PC version provides even larger fonts, more likely to help those with more than slight vision loss. Amazon has also added different color views. The sepia view cuts some of the glare, but the white on black view is perhaps the most helpful view.  The PC version also lets the user pick the width of the page (and the approximate number of words per line). With all this, the new version will be useful to the low vision reader wanting to get access to the Kindle library, not only because of its inherent features, but because the PC platform will let those who use magnification software benefit from it as well as the Kindle features. Magnification software will also help the user locate the controls for the app, which don’t respond to the changes in font or color scheme. With that in mind, it is the fact that the Kindle books can now always be read by the consumer’s text-to-speech, rather than the magnification, that can really help a low vision reader be more efficient when reading longer texts.

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