Blind Bargains

Blind Bargains Top 10 Stories of 2013: 1. AmazonHelps and Fights A T in the Same Breath

It's time for the number one in our annual look back at the year in assistive technology, the Blind Bargains Top 10 Stories of 2013. This year's panel included J.J. Meddaugh, Jamie Pauls, Alena Roberts, and Joe Steinkamp. In case you missed them, here are our earlier stories on the countdown. Without further delay, here's number 1 from a few different perspectives.

Let's start with Alena#

"In many ways, 2013 was the year of the book for those with print disabilities. After many years of thinking that the over 1 million titles from Amazon’s Kindle store would be out of reach for those who can’t read print, Amazon finally stepped up and made their iOS app accessible, made the new Kindle Fire HD accessible out of the box, and started adding accessibility to the Android app. Being able to purchase and read any book from the Kindle library means that people with print disabilities can finally buy a book on the day it’s released digitally. They no longer have to wait for the book to be scanned or turned into an audio book. They can even read the book using a braille display, giving braille readers access to more books then they’ve ever had. It’s true that prior to the Kindle app being accessible, iBooks, Google books, and the Nook libraries were accessible on the iOS platform, but none of these collections is as large as Kindle."

In contrast with Alena's story, we had a separate fight brewing with Amazon joining other publishers to fight ereader requirements, namely those imposed on devices like the $100 Kindle Paperwhite. Amazon argues that putting accessibility into these devices would be an undue burden and raise costs. But for the blind, needing to purchase a Kindle that is twice as expensive to receive spoken feedback is also potentially an undue burden and essentially a tax on accessibility. Amazon seems happy to add access where it's convenient but still doesn't always carry the right philosophy through companywide.

Finally, here's some more from HJoe:

The new Kindle not only sported some iPad Mini weaponry with the higher pixel count screen, lighter design and of course the age old chestnut of all iPad competetors... price, Amazon also went stark raving mad telling us all just how fantastic the new HDX was in every conceivable way and through every media outlet possible. Attack ads and a no interest payment plan for the unit during the Holiday season demonstrated just how bad Amazon wants you to have the new Kindle.

The cool thing is that the access to it is improved over last year's first attempt at a talking Kindle Fire. This is partly thanks to google's improved Talkback, (see my thoughts on Android access circa 2012.) The modified Android v4.2 uses the basic Google framework but then goes off into some interesting directions. Oh, and the iOS and Android Kindle apps got speech friendly as well. They have come late to the party, however Amazon did a lot in 2013 to shed their anti-blind tag.

Thanks to all of our panelists for 2013 and to all of you for following along. What will 2014 hold? We hope you'll follow Blind Bargains to stay up to date on the latest in assistive technology and beyond. Happy New Year.

Category: Articles

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J.J. Meddaugh is an experienced technology writer and computer enthusiast. He is a graduate of Western Michigan University with a major in telecommunications management and a minor in business. When not writing for Blind Bargains, he enjoys travel, playing the keyboard, and meeting new people.

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