Editorials/Opinion Pieces

Kindle PC App Accessibility Review

I stumbled upon this information a while ago.  I did so because I was looking into getting a Kindle tablet, and in my research, I was linked podcasts talking about Kindle accessibility.  I’m not sure how long ago this happened, but the Kindle for PC app works seamlessly with the NVDA screen reader – a free screen reader for PC, and the one I’ve used for years.  This was super refreshing, so I figured I’d download it and give it a go.  There’ve been too many times where something has been said to be accessible, and it was a lot harder to get working after actually trying it.  I’m all for trying new things, but it does get frustrating when you think something will be just out of the box accessible, and it’s harder to use than originally stated.  Sometimes I try anyway, sometimes I give up – but the fact that that’s even a problem in itself gets a little annoying a lot of the time.  Just a fact of being blind, but hopefully it changes in the future with companies like Amazon and Apple putting their best feet forward.

 

Now, how does Kindle for PC work with NVDA?  Why, seamlessly!  I honestly was pleasantly surprised to find that after I figured out I was trying a non-text to speech enabled book, and got one that was text to speech enabled, that it indeed worked just like you were browsing a webpage.  Kindle had a basic accessibility feature before, but in order to read you had to use this really annoying Windows Narrator voice to do so.  I couldn’t bare it, never tried to use it to read a book after just not being able to take the voice.

 

With the Kindle for PC and NVDA accessibility however, you’re using the voice you’re accustomed to using while doing everything else on the computer.  I read fanfics with this voice, so needless to say it was so nice to be able to read books with the voice I’m used to, at my own pace.

 

While I like Audible Books, sometimes, the narrator of a book makes me not want to read the book.  Nothing against the narrator, but some voices just don’t gel with me like other voices.  Audio books are a lot more expensive also, so unless you want to subscribe to Audible monthly, you’d be spending upwards of 20 to 30 dollars per book.  On Audible’s PC app, you can’t speed up the book, so you’re stuck reading at whatever pace the book is set.

I like my audio books, don’t get me wrong, but it is nice to have the option of reading an ebook if I don’t feel like having the audio version.  I can read Kindle books at my own pace – I find myself clearing 5 chapters in 1 hour, as opposed to 1 chapter for 1 hour or more – and the problem of possibly not liking the narrator is voided because of the screen reader.  If it’s not a book I’m really anticipating in audio book format, I’d rather just get the Kindle Book and read with the screen reader, so this accessibility is great.  I tested this with the books I’m reading right now, and I definitely wouldn’t have wanted to read the audio book because the narrator isn’t what I pictured for the book, so Kindle is already paying off.  That, plus I’ve spent 30 dollars on 3 books, instead of 1.  It makes me want to read more, and since I used to love reading when I had more vision, I’m really grateful to Amazon for taking the time to make Kindle accessible in a widely available way for the blind.  No overpriced add on, no overpriced devices – just two free pieces you can download to enjoy your books.  Never thought it’d be possible, but it is.

 

If you’re worried about a book not being text to speech enabled (they have to be to work with the NVDA accessibility) you can download a free sample of the book, and see if it works.  You also can just see if you’d be interested in the book, so I’ve totally been using this feature for every book I’ve downloaded.  Other than the 2nd and 3rd books in a series.  I find the free sample feature super useful, both to double check accessibility, and as a consumer, to see if I’d want the book.

 

I bring this up because like I said earlier, the first thing I downloaded worked with the old crappy accessibility, but it said it was text to speech enabled.  That only happened with one book I tried, mind you, but it’s something to mention if you’re worried about dropping money on a book, and it not being accessible.  Free sample is the way to go regardless for me, but testing accessibility with this as a work around to do so is just a little trick I figured I’d pass along.  The only hrmm thing about Kindle is that every book may not be accurate in its text to speech enabled status, so like I said I’d just get the free sample and double check to be sure.

 

The search functions, notes, highlighting, and dictionary all work as well.  Just Hit the applications key on a word, the definition pops up.  Shift and arrow to select a passage, right click and you can highlight.  Search, and the search function shows you possible results – like legit, everything is accessible, and it’s so great.  A lot of the time only half an application gets accessible, so once again, bravo Amazon.

 

If you can’t tell, I’m so happy with Kindle for PC, and it’s accessibility.  I heard Kindle tablets have a built in screen reader, and that’s why I researched into purchasing one, but I haven’t gotten one yet so can’t talk on how good or bad the screen reader is on that device.  The Kindle accessibility makes me want to buy a Kindle tablet more than ever however, so to me that means Amazon is going in the right direction with their accessibility.

 

I didn’t know this existed until recently, so even though it’s been out for a while, I wanted to make this post for anyone like me, who may not have known about Kindle for PC app accessibility, and would like to be able to have access to ebooks like everyone else.  It’s really good to use, and since it’s free, I’d say give it a try!

 

Editorials/Opinion Pieces · Video Games

What An Accessible Video Game to the Blind Means to Me

Disclaimer:  This is an opinion piece, I am by no means an expert and am just voicing my viewpoint on the subject.

 

I see it often, as news on Twitter and Facebook.  “A game fully accessible for the blind!” and I go check it out, and it’s a game that’s just a completely black screen, with auditory feedback only.  Perhaps some tactile feedback as well, but to me, those games don’t quite cut it.  I won’t say it’s not accessible, because it is, but at the same time it feels like it’s still limiting the amount that the blind can play with their sighted peers.    Before I get fully into this post though, I’d like to say I’m super happy with the headway accessibility has gotten in the past ten years.  The fact that it’s something game developers are even thinking about, and implementing in their games is amazing, and makes me want to get back into gaming again.  I saw that even big companies, like Microsoft and Sony are putting text to speech controls in their consoles, and I’m hoping that the Switch will follow suit (though the HD Rumble is a step in the right direction).  Indi developers that think about how to adapt their games, and create games specifically for the blind isn’t something that I would see when I was a teenager and pre-teen, and it warms my heart to see that people are even thinking of how to make things easily available for everyone to play.
With that out of the way, I feel like making games without graphics isn’t exactly the right way to go with making games accessible.  I know being legally blind is a rather blanket term, but being legally blind, or visually impaired, doesn’t always mean someone is 100 percent blind.  There are people who have full sight out of one eye, have light perception, tunnel vision, peripheral vision, and so many other visual spectrums, that developers should account for.  Sure, a legally blind gamer who has sight in one eye but none in the other may like to play a game that doesn’t have any visuals, but they also may not care for that sort of game and want to play something that has graphics they can see to the best of their ability, to immerse them further in the gaming experience also available to their sighted peers.

 

Blindness is a term a lot of us use because it’s easiest to say instead of something like “I’m actually visually impaired, I can see colors and light perception” because to a lot of people, that’s hard for them to grasp.  I know I’ve seen a lot of blind gamers just say, give me good sound design in a Triple A title I’ll do the rest with my other senses.  For some, being able to magnify things is enough, while for others, the text to speech menu options are all they’d need.  Others would just need inverted color schemes, while others may prefer a fully audio, fully tactile game.

 

What I prefer in a game, is just to have the entire experience, like any normal game.  Sound design is fantastic nowadays:  I watch videos of games on YouTube, and can tell what’s going on just by the placement of the sound.  I don’t have any new gen consoles, but I can only imagine how easy it is to play and how immersive it is for a blind gamer.  I memorize where things are, or get sighted help from friends and family when something is too difficult, but overall that’s usually my gaming experience.  That being said, I love fighting games for how easy they are to just pick up and play.  Pick a mode, pick a fighter, and you’re good to go XD

 

Like I said, I’m super impressed, and happy to see the strides that developers, both big and small are taking towards gaming being doable for everyone.  But when I see a game that says it’s fully accessible, but is lacking in features, I’m always so conflicted.  I love that people are doing it, but at the same time, why not do it so it’s literally accessible to everyone?  Games like 1, 2, Switch are doing a good job of being playable for everyone, while not looking like it’s excluding anyone from being able to play, and I think that’s more what developers need to stride for as far as making a game fully accessible goes.  A no graphics, audio only game may be interesting, and a good game to have out there but at the end of the day it’s very niche and won’t be as interesting a game to play as say, a Final Fantasy game and I’d overall just like to see more access to games that are more mainstream.  Good steps in the right direction on all fronts though, very interested to see where game development for the blind and visually impaired will be going in the next few years.

 

Have any thought’s on the subject?  Would love to hear in the comments!