July 26, 2020 marks the 30th anniversary of the signing of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability, affording similar protections against discrimination as the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Amazon is recognizing this moment in our nation's history with a continued commitment to accessible technology, including enhancements to the Kindle reading experience.

We believe reading is essential for a healthy society, and we want to inspire readers by making it easy to read more and get more out of reading. Kindle's Accessibility Team has been working for the last few years to build features that ensure readers of all abilities can reap the benefits of digital reading experiences.

JoAnna Hunt speaks about the Amazon Accessibility team works to support people with disabilities.

Amazon's guiding principle of customer obsession extends to our work around accessibility. "With 15% of the world's population having at least one disability*, we owe it to our readers to obsess over ways to help them read more and get more enjoyment and learning from reading," said JoAnna Hunt, Principal PM, Accessiblity for content experience and quality. “Our team is working on a daily basis to help solve a fundamental aspect of literacy—access to reading, which, in turn, will lead to a more rewarding and fulfilling life. What can be better than that?"

A multi-year collaboration between the Kindle Accessibility team and the National Federation of the Blind resulted in significant improvements to how customers who are blind read with Kindle. Improvements and features include:

  • Customers who read with assistive technology can now use Amazon’s VoiceView screen reader to read on Kindle devices and with the Kindle app on Fire tablets.
  • Fire tablets also work with popular Bluetooth refreshable braille displays.
  • Customers who read on iOS, Android, or PC can use the screen readers supported on those devices to read more than 12 million screen reader supported books with Kindle.

Leading the charge for the Kindle Accessibility team is JoAnna Hunt, who has worked in the product development, design, education, and accessibility fields for nearly 20 years. JoAnna oversees a cross-functional team of talented developers, testers, and technical product and program managers to ensure the company’s reading, shopping, and authoring experiences are inclusive to people of all abilities around the world. Each member of the team has used their own unique experiences to influence the development of products like the team’s latest release, the Reading Ruler.

Profile image of an Amazon employee who works on features including Kindle tools
Meet JoAnna. A product leader who has worked in software development, inclusive design and accessibility for nearly 20 years, she leads the Kindle Accessibility Team.
Profile image of an Amazon employee who works on features including Kindle tools
Meet Youngsun. A software developer who has worked in the United Kingdom, South Korea, and the U.S., she works to create effective solutions that benefit everyone as Lead Developer for Reading Ruler.
Profile image of an Amazon employee who works on features including Kindle tools
Meet Jamal. A self-confessed bibliophile, who is also blind, he strives to bring the benefits of accessible reading experiences to others by developing user interfaces that maximize the ease of reading as Quality Assurance Lead.
A man with glasses smiles at the camera. Behind him, greenery grows in an outdoor setting.
Meet Aaron. A Senior software engineer and video game industry veteran, he works on making product improvements for people of all abilities.
Profile image of an Amazon employee who works on features including Kindle tools
Meet Yogini. With 20 years’ experience working in the software industry, she serves as Technical Program Manager and oversees all aspects of timelines, challenges and test efforts while simultaneously trying to help demystify Kindle’s accessibility work for fellow teams.

Since the collaboration with the National Federation of the Blind began in 2016, the team’s focus has expanded to address the needs of readers who have moderate-to-severe vision challenges and those who struggle with reading due to conditions like dyslexia, autism, and ADHD.

Accessibility features in Kindle reading applications and devices include the ability to customize the font type, size, and boldness; control the screen brightness, margins, and line spacing; or invert the background and text colors to create more comfortable reading environments. This summer, the team will release updates to Reading Ruler, the latest step in achieving Amazon's mission to support—and improve—the reading proficiency of children and adults with reading disabilities. And the team’s work is not going unnoticed by customers.

  • “Brilliant! My 23-yr-old daughter is registered blind but she has some useful vision. She won't use audiobooks [at the moment], she prefers to read for herself. Books were so hard for her to access before she got her kindle so it's wonderful yours and other books come in so many formats!"
  • "It’s great that Kindle has some accessibility functions to help those who maybe can’t read small print books."
  • "I tried to read 30 books a few years ago and couldn't do it, really happy to have been able to do it this year. [Thank you] Kindle accessibility, I would have never gotten back into reading w/o you!"

At Amazon, diversity and inclusion are essential for effective collaboration. We seek out diverse perspectives and continuously listen to customers to learn more about how people with disabilities are impacted by access to digital reading experiences and to ensure we deliver delightful features designed for readers with disabilities.

Keep watching for new and innovative accessibility features to come to more of Kindle’s reading surfaces, as the Kindle Accessibility team is just getting started.

*Source: WHO