The Best eBook Reader
So, how does a blind person read? Up until a year ago, we either had to learn Braille or find our books in audio format. Even the best ebook reader on the market didn’t enable us to read the most popular books available. Being a persistent advocate of accessible devices and applications, I was thrilled when the folks at Amazon finally enabled text-to-speech on all of their Kindle eBooks.
Introducing, the iPad
Contrary to popular belief, I don’t own a Kindle reader. I read and do most of my work on an iPad Mini. Yep, you heard right. In my humble opinion, it is the very best ebook reader on the market today. Let me tell you why.
iPad Supports Multiple eBook Formats and Text to Speech
Not only can I read just about any type of ebook published, I’m able to use the built-in VoiceOver software to navigate the apps on my device with ease. VoiceOver is Apple’s solution for those of us who cannot see. I can manage my email, browse the Web, chat with friends and family, read all ebook formats, including Kindle, and even listen to audio books. To my delight, I even have a pleasant British chap for my VoiceOver person. It’s like having my own personal butler.
When I don’t require the VoiceOver functionality, I can easily turn it on or off using the Home key. No other eBook reader on the market matches this level of accessibility. So, for a blind or visually impaired person, the iPad is the best eBook reader available.
Voice Activated Commands
The new Siri feature enables me to control most of my functions with my voice. I can set an alarm to wake me in the morning, call my husband, message my mum, and compose a new mail message to my best friend simply by speaking a command. It’s easily activated by pressing and holding the home button. I love it! As I’m walking to the store or some other destination, I can control my device through a Bluetooth headset without having to remove the device from my bag. How convenient is that?
Lightweight and Compact
The device is small: 7.87 inches high by 5.3 inches wide. Weighing in at only .69 pounds, it slips nicely into my bag with hardly a notice. The Smart Cover I purchased for it enables me to easily turn the device on or off by lifting or lowering the cover.
Long Battery Life
The battery life for this device is nothing short of impressive. I use it all day long, yet still have approximately 40% battery life by the end of the day. If the battery is completely dead, it can take up to four hours to charge. I don’t typically run it that low. I simply plug it in at night, and it’s good to go the next day.
Another huge plus that makes the iPad the best eBook reader, is the ability to purchase school books online. I have over fifty books loaded onto my device at one time. This enables me to look up information quickly and take notes as I’m reading. Electronic school books are a fraction of the cost of printed books, you don’t have to haul them around from one class to another, and you can write as many notes in the book that you want. You can highlight important information, look up words for their meaning, and search the entire book for a particular word or phrase. It sure beats looking at the index and thumbing through pages, yeah?
The onscreen keyboard is a bit cumbersome for a blind person to use, so I purchased a separate Bluetooth keyboard that is small and very lightweight. When I don’t feel like using my voice to enter text, I use this keyboard.
I also use a Bluetooth stereo headset that enables me to hear my iPad, or control its functions through voice command, or Siri.
I now use my Mini iPad more frequently than I use my computer. Don’t think you can do much with this device, let me tell you. I have composed novels, maintained Websites, and have purchased more items than I care to admit with this fabulous little device. Yes, there are many tablets out there that provide similar features, but none of them are quite as accessible for us blind folk.
My mum used to read her books on a Kindle Fire and she loved it. I bought her an iPad this year and now she never touches the Kindle Fire. She loves how she can make the items on the iPad screen larger when things are hard to read. The backlight enables her to read in the car during long trips, and she especially loves the feature where hard to read items can be spoken. Due to severe arthritis, she is slow on the keyboard. The microphone feature enables her to speak the text instead. Now, we chat back and forth and it’s like having her here beside me as we enjoy our afternoon tea.
If you have a loved one who is blind, visually impaired, or has dexterity issues, the iPad offers a level of independence that they may never have thought possible.