Kindle Offers Pros and Cons to Readers with Disabilities

Article Highlights:
  • The Kindle is a lightweight electronic device that reads e-books and other digital media.
  • For people with disabilities, the Kindle offers more reading independence, especially through its Read-to-Me feature.
  • Product drawbacks include the price and controls that aren't usable by those with very limited strength.
by MJ Purk on October 1, 2009 - 5:12pm

QUEST Vol. 16, No. 4

I purchased the Kindle as a gift to myself. I’m a senior in college and although being a student leaves me with very little time for leisure reading, I still want to read something other than textbooks. The Kindle is a thin, lightweight device for downloading and reading e-books and other digital media. According to its creator,, “at 10.2 ounces, [the Kindle is] lighter than a typical paperback.”

This was the Kindle's biggest draw for me. I can’t hold the typical book, paperback or otherwise. Holding something in my hands while reading is something that's always been difficult for me to achieve without being precariously propped with several pillows. The Kindle allows me to be semi independent while reading and I don’t drop it on my head several thousand times throughout one chapter. The Kindle holds over 1,500 books, which is fantastic for someone like me who enjoys reading several books at one time.

One of my other favorite features of the Kindle is the Read-to-Me function. I'm unable to push the buttons to turn the page in the Kindle independently. The Read-to-Me function allows most newspapers, magazines, blogs and books to be read aloud, unless the rights holder makes the feature unavailable. This is critical for me to be independent.

Not having the physical strength to operate the Kindle is the major drawback. I've tried several different positions and it's still very difficult for me to access the Kindle by myself. According to, the controller for the latest version of the Kindle is easy to use, but having not used the older versions, I can't say if this newer version is easier or not. Although mildly discouraging, I've found the Read-to-Me feature allows most individuals with a disability to be independent, once the Kindle is turned on and the book is accessed.

As a college student, I also like the annotations feature. This feature allows you to add notes in the book with thoughts about what's being said. Again, I'm unable to access this feature independently. But the fact that I have that option is more than I had with a regular book, since I'm unable to write. The built-in dictionary is also a key feature. The dictionary allows you to select a word and instantly look up the definition without losing your place. Since dictionaries are generally heavy and difficult to access with limited strength, the Kindle again provides  reading independence. The device also allows adjustment of text size within each book, a great feature for individuals with vision problems.

Kindle gives you access to hundreds of thousands of books; the vast majority can be purchased for under $10. The initial cost of the Kindle may be a drawback for many people. Costing over $300, it's quite pricey for individuals on a fixed income. But, in my opinion, the Kindle is well worth the investment for hours of independent reading time.

MJ Purk, 21, is a student at Wayne State University in Dayton, Ohio, majoring in rehabilitation services. She has type 1 spinal muscular atrophy.

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