New text-to-speech options in Amazon Kindle App

eBooks have always been a problem for blind screenreader users. Legal eBooks are kept heavily protected to stop you copying or sharing them, which means it’s hard for assistive technology to get into them and read them back. Governments have been lobbied to clamp down on file-sharing sites where you can get eBooks that read easily. And anything complex in layout, like a textbook, usually has shoddy text-to-speech support.

There are ways to do it, like using iBooks on iPad or getting books from Bookshare and other organisations. But that’s not every book, and that means an additional process that sighted users don’t have to follow.

Good news, then, that Amazon has updated its Kindle Apps. This lets you get text-to-speech to read out loads more books, and you can still change the content (colour, font size) to make it easier to read if you have some sight. This includes Amazon Kindle for Windows PC.

All taken from this great write-up at the CALL Scotland blog, which I recommend you go read: Giving your Kindle App a voice.

Guidelines for building accessible video games

Gamers with a disability often lack support in popular video games. If you’re a gamer designer you may not be able to address every potential user, but if you know how to make things easier or more playable then you may be able to implement features in a way that expands the number of people who can use your game.

A great set of guidelines has now been brought together here: Game Accessibility Guidelines. For reference, here are the basic guidelines – they are covered in detail on the site.

Provide details of accessibility features on packaging and/or website
Offer a choice of difficulty level
Ensure that all settings are saved/remembered
Motor (Control / mobility)
Allow controls to be remapped / reconfigured
Ensure that all areas of the user interface can be accessed using the same input method as the gameplay
Include an option to adjust the sensitivity of controls
Ensure controls are as simple as possible, or provide a simpler alternative
Cognitive (Thought / memory / processing information)
Allow the game to be started without the need to navigate through multiple levels of menus
Use an easily readable default font size
Use simple clear language
Use simple clear text formatting
Include tutorials
Ensure no essential information is conveyed by a colour alone, reinforce with a symbol or offer a choice of alternative colours
If the game uses field of view (3D engine only), set an appropriate default for expected viewing environment (eg. 60 degrees for TV, 90 degrees for monitor)
Use an easily readable default font size
Use simple clear text formatting
Provide high contrast between text and background
Provide separate volume controls or mutes for effects, speech and background / music
Ensure no essential information is conveyed by audio alone, reinforce with text / visuals
If any subtitles / captions are used, use an easily readable default font size, simple clear text formatting and provide high contrast between text and background
Ensure that speech input is not required, and included only as a supplementary / alternative input method