Launch of the VoiceView Audio Adapter
On May 10th 2016 we were introduced to the VoiceView feature for Kindle from Amazon, It’s in the form of a USB Audio Adapter which at the moment can only be used with the Kindle Paperwhite.
This feature has been created to help both blind and low vision people use the Kindle as it provides text-to-speech content which helps them navigate their kindle with the help of either headphone which is connected or speakers which allow you to listen to it aloud.
Audio Adapter Features
Amazon had to create an Audio Adapter with a micro-USB connector as there is no headphone or speaker jack in the Paperwhite so that users are able to listen to the text-to-speech plus the navigation guides in the Voiceview. It has been stated that the Voiceview for the Kindle eReader which it is dedicated for, is easier to use rather than the VoiceView that is more suited to the Fire tablet which is a multi-purpose and multi-media device.
To navigate the Kindle, VoiceView makes you use a series of swipes and double taps, the menus, selections and everything else is read aloud by a voice while you swipe and tap the screen. You do not have to use the double-taps the highlighted icons which are on the video, you are able to double-tap the screen anywhere to make your selections.
The Jog Wheel
The Jog Wheel which is an addition to the Android accessibility tools from Amazon is a feature in the Voiceview for Fire so that people who are blind or of low vision are able to navigate the parts that are displayed on a device that has a touchscreen and in a manner that is efficient. Unfortunately, this will not be available in the first version of the VoiceView for Kindle.
There will be features that are the same available on both the Kindle and the Fire, these will be linear, a broad range of speech feedback rates, touch navigation as well as having earcons, these are beeps as well as other sounds which will have precise definitions in the environment of screen-reading.
The VoiceView feature will firstly be available in the 7th Generation of the Paperwhite, and Amazon’s goal of the accessibility team is for a blind or low-vision person to be able to set up their VoiceView without having a sighted person having to help them. Therefore, when you connect the Kindle Audio Adapter to the Paperwhite, the VoiceView will start to run automatically.
As the adapter is built purposely for VoiceView, there will be no chances for readers who do not have low vision or are blind being able to turn the VoiceView off and be able to still use the adapter to listen to the general kindle.
Also available is a tutorial with multiple lessons which was developed by Amazon to help anyone new learn how to use the features.
Another feature from Amazon which uses an open source font is called OpenDyslexic and is available on the latest generation kindles to allow users who were visually impaired to be able to read on the kindle devices.
Downsides to VoiceView
It seems to be that the Kindle is the better option for using to read ebooks whereas the Fire tablet seems the better solution for using text to speech as with the Fire tablet, it is easy to toggle TTS on and off from the menu without the need to use the VoiceView, it gives it a longer battery life plus there is the support of Bluetooth for using headphones which are wireless as well as speakers. There are also additional voices which can be downloaded.
On the kindle, when turning pages while using the VoiceView there is an audible noise that is not on the Fire tablet when you are using TTS. Another problem with VoiceView is it starts reading from the top left of the page when it starts as opposed to the Fire when using TTS it starts exactly where you left off.
Whereas the KAD uses just one voice that is good for TTS, it uses up the Kindle’s battery meaning it only lasts for about 6 hours of playtime when you have the adapter connected. You can, however, choose from different levels of speed which customises from the settings menu the rate of speech as well as adjusting the volume. There is also a tutorial which demos the feature of VoiceView.
You cannot get the audio support for music or audiobooks, it only extends to the VoiceView and text-to-speech.
In the United States, there is a package available that includes a six-inch reader along with the Kindle Audio Adapter and this also has a dongle that you plug directly into the charging jack in the Paperwhite. This enables the speech-to-text function for the visibly impaired users to listen along to the book when connecting a pair of headphones which are not actually included in the package. However, Amazon is also throwing in an account credit of $20 which is to off-set the price which is $140 for the package.
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