Amazon today announced a number of new features for its Kindle for iOS app that aim to make it easier to use for blind and visually impaired users. Today’s update, Amazon says, will make it easier for these users to use features like “X-Ray, End Actions, sharing, highlighting and bookmarking.” Amazon says these new features are available on iOS today, but it plans to make them available on additional platforms in the future.
These new features, the company says in today’s announcement, will give visually impaired users easier access to the more than 1.8 million titles in its catalog that feature its text-to-voice VoiceOver narration. The iOS app also allows users to read character-by-character, word-by-word and line-by-line and supports the usual iOS accessibility features like zoom, assistive touch and support for peripheral braille displays.
Over time, Amazon has made its Kindle hardware and apps more accessible for visually impaired users. Last December, for example, added Voice Guide and Explore by Touch to its Kindle Fire HD. Still, the company has recently come under fire for not doing enough for its visually impaired users. Also in December, a number of blind users protested in front of the company’s headquarters to bring attention to the Kindle’s lack of features for visually impaired users. At the time, Dr. Marc Maurer, the President of the National Federation of the Blind, argues that “Amazon has repeatedly demonstrated utter indifference to the recommendations of blind Americans for full accessibility of its Kindle e-books and failed to follow the best practices of other e-book providers.”