eReaders

New Amazon Kindle tablets to include accessibility

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After promising last year, Amazon announced on Wednesday that its new Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Fire HDX tablets will come with improved accessibility features.

Both the updated Kindle Fire HD and the new Kindle Fire HDX will run on the Fire 3.0 operating system (Fire OS 3.0) called ‘Mojito’. The OS is a version of Google Android and will allow Kindle Fire tablets to be compatible with some Android apps. While Kindle Fire HD will come with a 7 inch screen, Kindle Fire HDX will come in 7 inch and 8.9 inch options.

The accessibility features in Fire OS 3.0 include:

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eReader producers continue fight to avoid accessibility

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eReader manufacturers Amazon, Kobo and Sony have petitioned the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to seek  exemption from laws requiring products to be accessible to users with disabilities.

The issue for the companies centres around the 21st Century Video and Communications and Video Accessibility Act requiring any product offering ‘advanced communication services’ to be “accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities”.  However, the companies argue that their budget eReaders, including the Amazon Kindle, are used primarily just for reading, and therefore the Act should not apply. The companies argue that adding accessibility features would lead to products being more expensive, heavier and with shorter battery life.

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Amazon acquires text-to-speech software company

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Amazon has announced it has acquired IVONA Software, a text-to-speech and voice recognition company, suggesting the accessibility of its future products and services could improve.

Amazon recently used IVONA Software for the text-to-speech and Voice Guide features included in the Kindle Fire eReader as accessibility features. Both the text-to-speech and Voice Guide feature allow blind and vision impaired users greater access to eBooks.

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Pressure increases on Amazon with AppleVis campaign

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eBook giant Amazon has been under increasing pressure from disability groups due to its failure to provide accessibility features in its Kindle devices and apps. The latest comes from a campaign run by AppleVis to have Amazon’s Kindle app for iOS devices made accessible for blind users.

AppleVis, a popular resource for blind and vision impaired Apple users, has launched a campaign to encourage Amazon to make its Kindle app for iOS compatible with the VoiceOver screen reader. If made, the change would drastically increase the accessibility of eBooks on mobile devices and provide blind customers greater choice.

AppleVis states, “Not only would this be a good commercial decision, but it would simply be the 'right' thing for Amazon to do. As consumers, this would also provide us with some much-needed competition and choice when shopping for eBooks.”

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