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November 2009
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Kindle Educational Pilot Program Hits Roadblock

kindle

Amazon recently added the reading aloud feature to the Kindle and now the device will be able to read books out aloud so that e-texts are more easily accessible. This step has generally been appreciated by everyone except the National Federation of the Blind. As a result, educational institutions participating in the Kindle pilot program have refused to go ahead with further rollouts.

Although NFB’s rejection might seem counter-intuitive on the surface, it actually is’nt. The NFB does not have a problem with the feature itself (and probably does appreciate it) but they do have a problem with the menu system that contains the feature lower within the menu tree. As a result, users have to go through multiple button presses to get to it. Hence, visually impaired individuals are likely to find if extremely difficult to turn on the read aloud feature without sighted assistance. The NFB also suggests that the menus themselves should be read out aloud to the user for better universal access.

The participating universities – University Of Wisconsin-Madison and Syracuse University, New York – have declared that they will not implement the Kindle on a larger scale before it becomes more universally accessible.

Even though this is a hurdle for Amazon, it does prove that Kindle is still the only eBook reader that has made significant forays into classrooms. And this hurdle is not likely to last very long either. The demanded universal access features will no doubt be added soon because they are already commonly found in devices.

Kindle currently has a bright future in the education field if the corporation behind it plays all its cards right. And so far, the steps taken in this direction have been quite fruitful. If Kindle is fully integrated into the education system, it will probably be the beginning of a mini-revolution that will change the way education is imparted.

3 comments to Kindle Educational Pilot Program Hits Roadblock

  • Paul Goodwin

    I find this vaguely hilarious – it’s not like a single one of my college textbooks is any more accessible to the visually impaired than a Kindle is, yet they don’t seem to have the same problem with those books that they do with the Kindle.

    Why the double-standard?

  • Paul,
    I’ve felt the same way.
    But they have scanners and machines that make books readable to them.

    There’s no solving the Kindle prob immediately and federal monies require the equal access.

    Re the menu thing, couldn’t they press shift sym to turn it on and off ?

    However, the entire Menu system should probably be in audio for those who need it, if they want to meet the guidelines, etc.

  • Paul Goodwin

    Yeah, but why can’t visually-impaired students use the texts that they’re using now? I doubt that any one technology will solve every special-needs person’s access issues; they don’t now, and likely won’t in the near future. What’s wrong with their using their current systems until something new is available for them?

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