Tag Archives: accessibility

Reading for All

Being blind and unable to read print, I find the Amazon Kindle’s text to speech facility a huge boon. For anyone who is unaware of the text to speech facility, when activated, it reads aloud books where the author/publisher has enabled speech. While the reading voice is robotic, it has improved over the years and (in my experience) once the reader becomes lost in a good book, it is easy to forget that a dalek is doing the reading!

The majority of books in the Amazon Kindle store have text to speech enabled. Of those which do not, most (perhaps all) are available as audible downloads from audible.co.uk/audible.com. However, Audible titles are, on the whole more expensive than their Kindle counterparts, which means that someone who is unable to read print must (if the text to speech facility is not enabled on the Kindle version) spend more to obtain the book in audio form. Personally I believe that all titles should have text to speech enabled irrespective of whether they are available from Audible or other suppliers of audio titles, as it is wrong that a blind individual has to pay more for an accessible version of a book.

All of my books have text to speech enabled meaning that they are accessible to all. In addition my collection of poetry, “Lost in the Labyrinth of My Mind” can be purchased, in braille from the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), while my latest poetry book, “My Old Clock I Wind” is in the process of being added to RNIB’s library.

To purchase “Lost in the Labyrinth of My Mind” in braille please go to, http://www.rniblibrary.com/iguana/www.main.cls?surl=search#savelist=General_*_LOSTLABYRINTH, and to buy it in print or ebook formats please visit, http://moyhill.com/lost/. To obtain “My Old Clock I Wind in ebook or paperback please visit, http://moyhill.com/clock/.

You can find links to all of my titles on my website, https://newauthoronline.com/about/.

Kevin

Apple

As a blind person I find the iPad accessible. With the assistance of Apple’s in-built screen reader, voice-over I am able to use the device with few problems. One aspect I have never mastered is the on screen keyboard. The keyboard is usable by people with little or no sight (tap once with voice-over enabled and you hear the name of the key announced. Tap twice and the key is activated). Despite it’s accessibility the on screen keyboard is, in my experience somewhat cumbersome from the perspective of the visually impaired. Consequently I use an Apple Bluetooth keyboard with my iPad. Once paired the keyboard works well enabling the user to enter text without having to contend with the device’s on screen keyboard.

Approximately a month ago the Bluetooth keyboard stopped working. I changed the batteries and it began functioning again. However about a week later the keyboard once more ceased working. Again I changed the batteries and it started functioning once more for a brief period. When the same problem happened for the third time I took the keyboard into the Apple store in Liverpool’s Paradise Street. The Apple representative quickly diagnosed that the keyboard had gone to the great Apple heaven in the sky and replaced it with a brand new (working)! One. Prior to visiting the store I had envisaged protracted explanations and a long wait before my issue could be resolved so I was pleasantly surprised with the speedy and efficient response of Apple. In these days of poor customer service it is refreshing to experience first rate treatment. I take my hat off to Apple.

The Silence Is Deafening

One of the joys associated with e-books is the fact that most are accessible to people with a visual impairment. As a blind book lover who is not able to read print I relish my ability to read e-books either on my Kindle or using the Kindle app on my iPad, via the text to speech facility (on the Kindle) or by Apple’s in-built screen reader, Voiceover on my iPad.

I was disappointed to find that a book recommended to me by an acquaintance (and available in the Kindle store) does not have the text to speech facility enabled thereby rendering my purchase of the title in question pointless as I would be unable to read the work in question.

As an author I can understand the legitimate desire of writers to protect their work from copyright theft. All of my books are Digital Rights Management (DRM) protected rendering them virtually impossible to copy. However all of my books as with the majority of those available in the Kindle store have text to speech enabled thereby allowing visually impaired individuals to purchase them. I would never disable text to speech because, by so doing I would be locking out blind people from the possibility of reading my works independently.

I have sometimes heard it argued that authors disable text to speech because their book is also available as an audible download from companies such as audible.co.uk/audible.com. If the book is available as an audio download then what is the point (the argument goes) in providing a text to speech enabled version of the book on Amazon.

In answer to the above I would argue that visually impaired readers should have the same choice as to how they access books as their sighted friends and acquaintences. If a copy of a book which does not have tex to speech enabled is available from Amazon and, in addition as an audio download then the sighted reader has a choice of either purchasing the Kindle book or the audio download. In contrast the blind reader has only one choice, to download the audio version as the Kindle book is inaccessible to him or her. This is, to my mind grossly unfair as blind people should (as stated above) be afforded the same opportunity to access books as their sighted compatriots.

Certain works are only available as inaccessible (non text to speech) enabled Kindle downloads with there existing no audio alternative. Consequently blind people have their ability to access such books severely curtailed. They can request a sighted friend to read the book which negates their independence or request a charity such as the Royal National Institute of The Blind (RNIB) to record the work or transcribe it into braille. However the latter option can be time consuming and can leave the visually impaired person feeling like a second class citizen who must rely on others for his or her reading enjoyment.

I won’t name the book or the author as I hope to be able to make contact and persuade them to make their book available, on Amazon with text to speech enabled (there appears to be no audio alternative).

Most authors who sell their books on Amazon do make them available with text to speech enabled and I am, as a blind person grateful to the vast majority of writers who do the right thing. To those authors who don’t enable accessibility for visually impaired people, I am sure that most of you do not realise that the effect of your decision is to make the lives of blind readers difficult by reducing their choice of reading material. If you are one of those authors please look again and ensure that your books are accessible to all not just those who can read print.

In conclusion this post is not aimed at the vast majority of writers who make their works accessible by enabling text to speech (on the Kindle) or Voiceover (on Apple products), it is aimed at the minority of authors and publishers who do not do the right thing.