It is summertime and holiday are still on for some of us.
Why not then taking something to read with you.
But when is about reading as a visually impaired person, things become a bit ambiguous, because we talk about accessibility and here are few things which comes in discussion.
For me, one of the greatest challenge when I lost my sight was reading and accessibility of desired titles .
I will mention here few things like:
- accessible books formats available
- where to get accessible books from
- devices able to play accessible content
- Apps and other way to consume text and audio books
- A list of previous podcast episodes about reading accessible.
Few formats are accessible for visually impaired, but probably the list will be more focused on the totally blind people, because unfortunately, for partially sighted, large print list of titles is not generous at all.
Most of them will read regular books probably using magnification in some way, but they can enjoy listening to audio books along completely blind people, as example.
Formats available are as follow:
- audio books
- e-books or textbooks
- Braille format, physical and digital
- daisy books
- tactile books
- large print
When is about audio books they can be available online for streaming or they can be downloaded in various formats and devices for offline consumption.
If we are online, we can listen books from websites, smart speakers and through apps on mobile devices as smart phones or tablets.
Some of the books are available only online. They can’t be downloaded as mp3, as example, in order to be listened in portable media players, and that because DRM restrictions.
Some of the audio books are without any copyright protection in place, some are unlocked for short time for some groups like reading clubs for blind.
This unprotected books can be manipulated like any other mp3 or audio files in your computer.
You can copy files from a device to other, as example from your PC to a memory card or USB dongle in order to listen in a portable media player after.
The offer is large, and more and more titles are converted in audio format, this format being very popular these days because even sighted people are enjoying listening to audio books, during driving, commute time or at the gym, for example.
e-books or textbooks
When is about this format, which is my preferable one, we can talk about regular text files as docx, PDF, or e-pub or other exotic formats, but not last, Kindle books which is an Amazon proprietary format.
Talking about Kindle books we have to understand the way of consuming this book because they are delivered also in a kind of DRM protected way.
Kindle books like formats mentioned above are accessible on the right devices and excepting Kindle and other protected books formats they are easy to use, navigate, and comparing with audio books does not require so much storage in portable device and band width, when is about to download them.
Of course, along formats above we can’t ignore other two major players in this industry, iBooks from Apple and Google Play store which also offer e-books for sale or sample of them.
Textbooks can be opened in computers, smart phones, tablets but in dedicated devices able to play this book which speech like Victor Stream Reader or some models of Olympus voice recorders. Also, when we talk about Kindle format, they can be played with Alexa smart speaker as long that title is whisper enabled.
When we talk about e-books in smart phones or tablets, we can’t add in discussion some great apps which makes life easier for screen reader users at list.
Apps like Voice Dream Reader in iPhone, Books, All Reader, Kindle app and many others helps us to organize our library and keep tracking what we read. Another aspect what is important when we talk about e-books is the match format for the right device, because just in an ideal world all devices will play all formats. Isn’t it?
In this stage we talk about being on a side or other of big industry players like Apple, Google and Amazon. Keeping in mind they are restrictive when is about formats and device compatibility, and some time content is exclusive available only in a particular platform.
To resume, in this world, we have Apple and its iBooks and audio books on one side, Google and his Books store in the other side and Amazon which wish to use the devices of both: Google and Apple, along their own devices like Kindle tablets and smart speaker.
In few words, like in many other IT areas big players are sometime overprotective when is about the content provided, willing not only to have exclusive access over content but to be deliverable in the way as they choose.
Before tech came out so popular with so many options, Braille was the only format available for blind people, and the early education included Braille learning.
For this enjoying the tactile way of reading the offer is reasonable.
The Braille books are coming with an inconvenient when is about traveling. They are big, and not easy to carry on if they are physical books, but wonderful when they are stored in a Braille display or Braille Note taker which is always along the blind user.
This kind of books are produced by charities involved in working with sight impaired people, and places where they can be purchased are not so many.
RNIB is the most important player when we talk about this format and Braille Foundation as well.
This format of books was designed by Daisy Foundation exactly for blind people, and more about it can be discovered going to daisy.org website.
In few words, this format is a combination between an audio book and textbook well synchronized and with very good navigation structure, but also with multiple bookmark options.
Unfortunately, the adoption of this format is not that great in the blind community, mainly because require specialized devices or software to be played, and devices of this kind are not cheap.
FS Reader is one of the less explored software which comes with Jaws screen reader. This little program is nothing else but a free daisy player which can be used on PC for Daisy format if you wish to explore.
Tactile books are a combination between Braille books and some pages with tactile marking like maps, charts, or other various embossed content which helps blind people to understand shapes, geometric figures and other things. It is used in education the most but not only.
This format is difficult to produce, rare used and most of the potential of this way of accessing information was not yet totally explored in terms of usability.
Unfortunately, this format is not very large in use, or its utility is found in educational materials, but for mainstream book titles the offer is very limited.
Religious organization takes care of providing hymns books, or other holy writing for their members in large print, and schools as well when is about education for visually impaired but going in regular books shop to buy a large print book is not an option, I am afraid.
I have the filling the totaly blind people have more to choos when is about accessible books then partially sighted who needs large print.
The other hand, I am encouraging partially sighted people to preserve sight for other things and try to go more on speech or audio books.
Sometime the format of the book impose what kind of device to use.
For example, an iBook can be read only in Apple devices.
Kindle and Audible are Amazon proprietary formats and they can be listened or read only on compatible devices or apps.
In terms of devices, Amazon offer Kindle tablets and Alexa speakers. Also Kindle app is available for a variety of operating systems computers and mobile.
Audio books without DRM protection can be played in nearly everything, PC, smart phones, media players etc.
For me, my iPhone is the main device where I read, but for others is the tablet, or the computer or even accessible media players.
The apps and their availability on various devices also are an important thing to consider.
For example, I can read unprotected books in Voice Dream Reader, I can play audio books, but if I wish to read Amazon content, I will move in Kindle app or audible.
If I have an audio book without protection is very possible to load that book on a memory card and play it in my little MP3 player which is a pocket size one.
Consuming books on smart speakers or computers keeps me too long seating down in same place and I don’t like that. So, for me portability and playing in headphones is key.
Prices for devices can start from a little like £25 for a simple media player up to thousands of pounds for computers or posh audio systems.
But the truth is, you probably have at list one if not more devices, capable to play to you one or more of the books formats mentioned above.
So go start reading today.
Where to get accessible books from
Of course, this list is made by some one living in UK and in other regions of the world could be many other sources available.
A simple search on Google for the term accessible books for blind will return generous results to choose from.
Your smart phone like Android, or featured phone
CD or Media player, possible to play files from memory card to USB pen
Specialized equipment for blind and visually impaired like Victor Stream Reader, Evo player or others similar.
Daisy player portable or desktop version
Smart headphones with Alexa or Google Assistant built in.
Your laptop or desktop PC or Mac
Your iPad or Android tablet or Kindle tablet.
Your smart TV including Apple TV, Fire TV
Again, all these devices are coming with their own goods and not so good and needs to be adjusted according with the listener or reader needs.
Smart phone or tablets needs some accessible software or apps installed and configured. They can be used with the respective screen reader turned on; Voiceover for iPhone, iPod, iPad or Mac, Talkback for Android and VoiceView for Kindle Tablets accessible for books reading and listening
Audible is available in PC, Mac on the web only, but with the proper app on iPhone or iPad or Android driven devices.
Kindle books can be read on dedicated tablets from Amazon, but keep in mind not all of them have speech support or a built-in screen reader. Recommendation is to check carefully before buy, if the screen reader support is available and how. Some of devices offer speech support only via headphones not through speakers.
Voice dream Reader is my first choice when is about reading. Is available for iPhone, iPad and Android devices. But keep in mind under Android not all formats are compatible or some of the formats which are available in iOS are not under Android.
Al Reader app for Android, reads lots of formats but not PDF.
Text Player is an Android app whichreads lots of formats in various languages and let you change the TTS used for reading.
Legend Voice reader is the android version of Voiceover Dream reader in iOS
Voice Speech Central is available for Android and iOS
Google Play Book Store in Android and Books in Apple devices
Smart audio book player and listen audio book player apps in Android and many other available in each app store.
Hope you have found in the end the best and easy to use app to use. Also hope you have found a good book to start with.
Keep in mind, your local library could be the place where to start from.
From example, BCP library which covers my area does have a number of accessible text and audio books available and the app what they use is accessible as you’ll see in the episode below where I demonstrate Borrow box app from screen reader user perspective.
Let me know what your preferable mode is to read and sorry for not listing up here all options.
Find out below a number of previous episodes about accessible book reading.