Improving device accessibility for customers with disabilities
At Amazon, we have made great strides in supporting accessibility. Over the past few years we have been focused on growing a dedicated accessibility team in our device organization and launching affordable devices with great accessible features, including offering the largest library of accessible books in the world with millions of books available.
From my first days working in this field, the high price of access solutions has been a significant barrier. Screen readers for the blind used to cost hundreds of dollars, on top of the cost of the computer. Since 60% of visually-impaired Americans are unemployed, with similar percentages for other groups with significant disabilities, these products were often out of reach for the folks who needed them most. So, I’m very proud of the work we are doing at Amazon to help make accessibility more affordable.
Last year, we released our fifth generation Amazon Fire tablets, including Fire, our most affordable tablet yet. These tablets come with Fire OS 5 “Bellini,” which includes a host of accessibility features that we’ve built for our customers with disabilities. We spent a lot of time thinking about how to make tablet use efficient, productive, and simple for customers with disabilities.
With previous generation tablets, blind and low vision customers told us that our integration of Android TalkBack was among the best available on a tablet, but that was faint praise as it came with a long list of feature requests to improve it and make it easier to use. We felt the best way to do that was a complete re-write of the screen reader. So, with Fire OS 5—available across all of our latest tablets—we introduced our new VoiceView screen reader. And, since its release last fall, tens of thousands of customers are using VoiceView.
- Linear and touch navigation
- Speech output with a broad speed range
- Braille output through BrailleBack
- Improved text-to-speech performance and latency to ensure responsiveness
- An expanded range of speech feedback speeds
- Simplified screen reader gestures to make them easier to use
- Revamped audio feedback—the “earcons”—that supplement speech feedback
- Jog-wheel (a brand new gesture) that allows customers to navigate forward and backward, continuously through content at their own speed
- Extensive tutorial for customers to use as a refresher anytime on specific features
Fire OS 5 also includes:
- Expanded large font range, enabling Fire tablet customers to adjust font sizes across the user interface to 1.5 times larger than default
- New color inversion and color correction features
- Built in magnifier with 5 times magnification that works alongside the large fonts settings, allowing customers to make text 7.5 times larger
Using these features on our new Fire HD 10 tablet lets customers with poor vision have an affordable tablet with a 10.1” screen—ideal for reading books, browsing the web, and more. Hundreds of thousands of customers are now using large fonts on our tablets.
These are exciting times for accessibility. We’ll continue listening to our customers to ensure we’re delivering on our mission to provide affordable products and great accessible features that will help serve the needs for all of our customers.