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Amazon Makes Kindle App To Make E-Books Accessible To The Blind

Ashley Gross
Blind protesters marching outside Amazon's headquarters in December

Amazon has released an app that makes it easier for the blind to read Kindle electronic books on iPhones. Advocates for blind people say it’s a significant step for a company that’s lagged other technology companies in making accessible products.

Last December, under gray skies and a steady rain, dozens of visually-impaired people marched and chanted outside Amazon’s headquarters. They chanted, "Hey, hey! Ho, ho! The broken Kindle's got to go."

They were protesting the lack of accessible features on the Kindle and Kindle apps to allow blind people to read e-books.

Now, Amazon has released an updated Kindle app for iPhones and other Apple devices that incorporates text-to-speech technology.

Chris Danielsen is a spokesman for the National Federation of the Blind, the group that organized last year’s protest. He says until now,blind people couldn’t read Kindle e-books on their iPhone or iPad.

"There was no capability for the speech to be read aloud with the VoiceOver function that’s on all Apple iPhones and now that is possible and that is a terrific development," Danielsen said. "We’re very pleased about that."

Danielson says there’s still more for Amazon to do. He says Amazon’s own Kindle devices still lack features that blind people need. But he says he’s hopeful the company will keep making improvements, and he’s gratified that the protesters’ complaints appear to have been heard. 

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.