November 11, 2009

Kindles Too Difficult For Visually Impaired To Operate

Although Amazon's Kindle device can read books out loud, the blind find that it is tricky to turn that task on. As a result, two universities are rejecting the gadget until Amazon makes the option easily accessible.

The National Federation of the Blind announced on Wednesday that the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Syracuse University will not use the electronic reading device until Amazon makes the reading aloud option easily accessible to visually impaired students.

"These universities are saying, 'Our policy is nondiscrimination, so we're not going to adopt a technology we know for sure discriminates against blind students,'" said Chris Danielsen, a spokesman for the National Federation for the Blind, to Reuters News.

Amazon.com Inc. spokesman Drew Herdener noted that numerous visually impaired customers have requested that Amazon remodel the Kindle to make it easier to steer.

The National Federation for the Blind says that there are 1.3 million legally blind people living in the U.S.

The Kindle has potential for the blind due to the read-aloud element. For blind students specifically, the Kindle could be a benefit for them, more than audio books.

The problem is that triggering the Kindle's audio feature necessitates a sighted assistant, as it involves maneuvering buttons and choices in menus on the Kindle's screen.

The federation thinks that the device should have audio menu options as well.

Ken Frazier, head of Wisconsin-Madison's library system, said the library purchased 20 Kindle DX to use in a history class. Even though he is not aware of the number of blind students are his school, he said that they are useful to many students have problems reading books for a variety of reasons.

"Our experience is that when you make technology accessible, everybody benefits," he said.


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