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Amazon to improve Kindle Fire for vision-impaired users, adding voice guide and touch controls

Amazon is set to improve the accessibility of its standard 7-inch Kindle Fire and 7-inch Kindle Fire HD, adding two features already available on the company’s 8.9-inch tablet.

The features, Explore by Touch and Voice Guide, will be coming some time “early next year,” the e-commerce giant said on Thursday.

Designed to help the vision-impaired navigate their way around the interface more easily, Explore by Touch feeds information to the user via audible announcements as they move their finger across the touchscreen. For example, swipe over a game and the system will read the name of it aloud. A subsequent tap will open the game or whatever it happens to be.

Voice Guide, which leverages technology from text-to-speech software company Ivona, reads aloud any action performed on the device by the user. So tap on a book and the system will read the title of the book aloud and confirm that the user has opened it.

Amazon Kindle vice president Dave Limp said in a release announcing the news that the move formed part of the company’s efforts to build on existing accessibility features for its vision-impaired customers, features that include text-to-speech, optional text coloring, adjustable font sizes and a built-in dictionary. He added that additional tools along the same lines were in the pipeline, though didn’t give any details.

Vision-impaired consumers interested in the Kindle Fire but reluctant to fork out for the pricier 8.9-inch device already equipped with Explore by Touch and Voice Guide may now be tempted to opt for one of the better-priced 7-inch options upon hearing this latest news – at least, that’s what Amazon will be hoping as it battles to rise above its rivals in the highly competitive budget-tablet market.

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