Disability Issues

New Kindle may assist some visually impaired

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The next wave of textbooks will be downloadable and easy to carry.

This summer Kindle DX came out with adaptable textbooks for everyone, including people with visual impairment.

From experts in the field of adaptive technology for people who are blind and visually impaired, the reviews of Kindle DX are mixed. They hope improvements are made to accommodate different levels of vision impairments.

Hadley School for the Blind in Winnetka provides educational services to people who are blind and visually impaired all around the world. Students don't come to school, they are taught by phone and computers using standard textbooks.

A devices like Kindle DX would be ideal, says Andre Lukatsky, director of computer services.

"The benefit of the DX is the large screen and gives someone with low vision access to large print materials," he said. "It's not good for people who are completely blind because the user interface doesn't speak; it doesn't have text to speech for the features in the menu. It doesn't allow a person who is blind to actually select a book through speech access."

The Kindle DX is light weight, larger than eBook, has an 18-point font and can be underline, which is essential for textbook usage.

Text to speech is also available.

The cost is around $500.

Allen Maynard is an access technological specialist who is legally blind.

"It's really a nice device. It's just unfortunate that being blind, I really can't use it because it reads the books but the menus don't talk and the control buttons aren't labeled they're not textual," Maynard said.

However, these experts believe there is a great future for Kindle DX.

"If Amazon can add just few more features to the Kindle if Amazon can make the menu speak so that a blind person can actually navigate the books and download the book without sited help," Maynard said.

For students like Jacqueline Anderson, the Kindle DX could be on her holiday wish list.

"I would want it to be able to read books and to be something that I could use easily. One of the most difficult things with technology for a person with visual impairment is that it would be fully accessible," said Anderson.

To learn more about adaptive devices for people with disabilities, there is an assistive technology exhibition going on this weekend in Schaumburg.

For more information visit http://hadley.edu/ and atia.org

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