Reading device for the visually impaired (ARMD), voice synthesis and other reading solutions

Author: Nicolas ᚚ

e-reader for visually impaired ARMD

Digital reading opens interesting perspectives for people with disabilities, especially for the visually impaired. We are going to see which reading devices and software solutions for visually impaired people exist on the market.

If you have a visual acuity lower than 3/10, you are considered as a visually impaired person by the WHO.

Reading text can therefore become very difficult. But, it is not impossible thanks to some technologies of which reading devices are part.

In this article we will also talk about reading solutions for visually impaired people or for people with age-related macular degeneration (ARMD).

Before going into details, I would like to specify that I am neither visually impaired nor blind. The information you will find on this page is therefore to be taken for what it is: information.

The e-reader to enlarge the characters

First of all, we have to start by talking about e-readers.

These reading devices are financially accessible and allow the reading of digital books.

In my opinion, their interest lies in two main things:

  • You can buy and download books easily without having to move and the ebook is often cheaper than its paper version
  • You can adjust the display on the screen to make the characters appear in a large font

The cheapest e-readers are equipped with a 6-inch touch screen.

The new Kindle is a good place to start, as it has an additional lighting feature that improves contrast and readability on the reader.

But, for a visually impaired person, I suggest using a reader with a screen of at least 8 inches.

Using the right font on e-reader

Some fonts used by default on ebooks and e-readers are not necessarily suitable for reading for visually impaired people.

One solution is to add fonts that are better designed for displaying text.

Here is a selection provided by a visually impaired reader that should help you better discern the characters on your e-reader:

Next, you will need to load this new font on your e-reader.

Text-to-speech on e-readers

On Pocketbook e-readers, and some Android readers, you can plug in headphones via a 3.5 mm jack or use headphones or a speaker with a Bluetooth connection.

Then, it is possible to activate the text-to-speech function. The reader will read the text of the ebook in a somewhat robotic way.

If we are still far from the diction of a human, it allows to have easily an audio version of a book not available in "audio book".

We also have access to various sound settings such as the choice between the voice of a man or a woman, the selection of the reading speed and the adjustment of the sound volume.

The audio book

The audio book is obviously a solution for visually impaired or blind people.

If the catalog is still far from being vast, the offer is increasing more and more because audio books are in fashion!

The number one service in reading remains that of Audible which offers a free trial book for any registration.

But you can find many free audio books on the Internet (click here to read the article).

The tablet: not recommended

I want to write a little word about tablets. Indeed, we can think that the idea is good since they are now a fairly large screen.

However, they suffer from a major flaw for people with vision problems: the blue light generated by the screens is too important.

I therefore advise against reading on a tablet, smartphone or computer screen.

It is good to note that the e-readers with lighting also generates blue light but in lesser quantities.

Note that there is software on tablets to reduce blue light. However, these are not always effective and they make reading more difficult because the screen becomes less contrasted.

Text-to-speech software

More and more smartphone applications offer a text-to-speech application.

Because, if it is better not to read on the screen of the smartphone (or a tablet), nothing prevents it from being used to access the text-to-speech function.

The list of applications that offer this function is long, but be aware that it is available in the "Google Books" application, installed by default with most Android smartphones.

This feature has appeared on other devices such as the Alexa personal assistant and its Echo devices that will text to speech on your Kindle books.

The Braille reader

Canute 360 Braille reader

Finally, there is a last device called Canute 360, which is a Braille reader capable of displaying 360 characters.

For the moment, the reader is not available for everyone because it is still a test.

Its commercialization being imminent, it could offer a very interesting solution for people who want to read Braille ebooks.

Conclusion: the best e-readers for the visually impaired

Today, digital technology offers more reading solutions for visually impaired people. But it is still not enough.

Indeed, accessibility is both difficult and easy to implement in digital devices.

We have seen in this article that software and reading devices allow to do text-to-speech. So we wonder why all ebook reading systems are not equipped with it!

Here is a selection of good e-readers with large screen for visually impaired people:

eReader : Kobo Elipsa 2E vs Kobo Sage vs Kindle Scribe vs Kindle Oasis
Kobo Elipsa 2EKobo SageKindle ScribeKindle Oasis
Imagekobo elipsa e-readerkobo sage e-readerkindle scribe e-readerkindle oasis e-reader
Screen size10.3"8"10.2"7"
Resolution1872 x 1404 pixels1440 x 1920 pixels1860 x 2480 pixels1680 x 1264 pixels
Storage32 GB32 GB16 - 64 GB8 - 32 GB
Pen / StylusYesNoYesNo
SD cardNoNo
Ebook formatsEPUB, EPUB3, PDF, MOBI, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF, TXT, HTML, RTF, CBZ, CBREPUB, EPUB3, PDF, MOBI, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF, TXT, HTML, RTF, CBZ, CBRKindle Format 8 (AZW3), Kindle (AZW), TXT, PDF, MOBI unprotected, PRC ; HTML, DOC, DOCX, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, EPUB (converted)Kindle Format 8 (AZW3), Kindle (AZW), TXT, PDF, MOBI unprotected, PRC ; HTML, DOC, DOCX, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP converti, EPUB (converted)
Blue light filterYesYesYesYes
OtherA bit expensiveCan read audio book from the Kobo library (bluetooth connection).Compatible with Microsoft Office Doc and Docx format (Word software)
Review⭐⭐⭐Too expensive, the Kobo Libra 2 may be a better alternative ⭐⭐⭐Expensive eReader with large screen. A device better suited for work as a note taking device ⭐⭐⭐Overall good eReader but too expensive now that there is better alternative in the Kindle lineup⭐⭐⭐
Link (where to buy?)

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