6 Useful Accessibility Features on the Amazon Kindle

There is nothing like the smell of books. The earthy, slightly musty aroma of a library or bookstore evokes strong emotions in avid readers. But physical books lack nearly all of the features that e-readers have to make reading more accessible to people with disabilities.

In recent years, e-readers have grown dramatically in popularity. A 2021 survey by the Pew Research Center found that 30% of Americans had read an eBook in the past 12 months, a 5% increase from a similar survey in 2019. If you’re relatively new to using an eReader , you may not have explored all the accessibility options that can make reading an easier and more enjoyable experience.

Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite, the most popular e-reader on the market and the one we used for testing while writing this article, has special fonts, settings, and features that enhance the reading experience for readers with disabilities. Amazon representative Jackie Burke told PCMag: “The Kindle Accessibility team is constantly working to create features that ensure readers of all skill levels can reap the benefits of digital reading experiences. We believe that reading is essential to a healthy society, so making sure everyone has access to books is something we’re passionate about.”

These six accessibility features are ones to be aware of for yourself or anyone else in your life who could benefit from them.

A Kindle Paperwhite open to the Voice View option

1. VoiceView for screen readers (Paperwhite only)

VoiceView was created for readers who use assistive technology, that is, screen readers. Exclusive to the Kindle Paperwhite, this feature is combined with a screen reader to read everything on the page aloud. Currently, the Amazon store has more than 12 million books that are compatible with screen readers, which you need to use this feature. VoiceView also works with braille displays.

To pair an assistive technology device with a Kindle Paperwhite, put the device into pairing mode. Press and hold the power button for nine seconds, then hold two fingers apart on the screen for one second. Please be patient as it may take up to two minutes for your Bluetooth device to pair with the Kindle. When the pairing is successful, you’ll hear: “Hold two fingers on the screen to use this audio device with the VoiceView screen reader on Kindle.”

All of the VoiceView settings are located in the quick action menu at the top of the Kindle screen, under the Accessibility tab.

A Kindle Paperwhite with the Word Wise feature showing word definitions on a book page

2. Word Wise for definitions

Word Wise is a great tool that allows people to read any material that may be slightly above their reading level without interruption. Children and English language learners are two examples of those who could benefit. This feature is currently only available in English. When WordWise is enabled, simple definitions appear above difficult words. Tapping the word brings up a menu with more definitions and synonyms. The level and amount of suggestions displayed can be adjusted within the Word Wise settings.

To activate Word Wise, touch the AA icon where the source controls are located at the top of the reading page. On the More tab, Word Wise is the bottom option. Here you can turn Word Wise on and off and adjust the level of support you need.

A Kindle Paperwhite showing the X-Ray feature, including a list of characters and locations from a book

3. X-ray for reference

While Word Wise displays suggestions directly within the text so users don’t have to stop reading, X-Ray provides a high-level overview of the characters, images, and phrases used in the book with which the reader may not be familiar with or need to know. reference. For example, you can get a list of all the characters in a book and see a graph that shows how often and where in the book the character’s name appears. X-Ray can also help readers better understand complex plots if that’s an area they struggle with.

To activate X-Ray mode, open the book in question and click on the three dots in the upper right corner. From the dropdown menu, select X-Ray. You can click on notable clips, people, terms, and images.

A Kindle Paperwhite with the font selection set to Open Dyslexic

4. OpenDyslexic font for easy reading

Dyslexia is a learning disability that causes someone to have trouble processing letters, numbers, and symbols. Many great learning tools help dyslexics, including the OpenDyslexic source. This font uses characters that are heavier at the bottom, which helps dyslexic people focus.

To activate the OpenDyslexic font, open a book and click the AA icon that controls the size and appearance of the font. Under the Font option, tap Font Family. OpenDyslexic is there along with other font options.

The page layout options on a Kindle Paperwhite

5. Variation of font sizes and layouts for visual enhancement

Large print books are often popular with readers with limited vision. eReaders can turn any book into a large print version by letting you customize almost everything about how the words appear on the page. Larger fonts, larger spaces, and varied margins allow Kindle users to visually set up a page in a way that works best for them.

All the font and page layout options are located below the AA tab when the user is inside a book.

Dark Mode Enabled on a Kindle Paperwhite

6. Dark mode to reduce eyestrain and reduce stimulation

There is evidence that reading light words on a dark background reduces eyestrain and makes reading easier overall. For users with sensory processing differences, dark mode can also reduce the amount of stimulation a screen creates, allowing them to more fully enjoy the reading process. Although the Paperwhite is designed with an anti-glare screen that mimics a printed page, they still have a backlight that some readers are sensitive to.

To turn on Dark Mode, which is only available on the two most recent versions of Kindle Paperwhites, tap the Accessibility tab in the main settings. Turn on “Invert Black and White” and you’re ready to go.

What’s next for Amazon Kindle?

In general, the Amazon Kindle (and Paperwhite in particular) has good accessibility features. However, we’d love to see all of these options grouped together under the Accessibility tab so readers can quickly and easily find and activate them.

Amazon has been involved in a multi-year collaboration with the National Federation for the Blind, which the company says has resulted in significant improvements in how blind users read with a Kindle Paperwhite and other Amazon devices. The team has broadened its focus to see how to improve the reading experience for dyslexic, autistic, or ADHD clients. You can read more about other accessibility options for Amazon products here.

To learn more about how to make your Kindle experience even better, check out our top Kindle tips every reader should know, as well as how to manage your Kindle devices and content.

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