Part 3 in Our Holiday Gift Series: Special Gift Ideas for People with Low Vision

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Cooking with Low Vision Gift Ideas by Audrey Demmitt

Do you have someone on your gift list who loves to cook but is finding it difficult with low vision? I was having a lot of mishaps in the kitchen as my vision got worse. Here is a list of my favorite kitchen tools to help make cooking safer and more efficient. One suggestion is to give these items in a gift basket.

photo of a white cutting board surface and a black cutting board surface to demonstrate contrast

Caption: Black and White Cutting Board

Older man taking item from oven using long oven mitts

Caption: Older Man Using Long Oven Mitts

Reading with Low Vision--the New Kindle Paperwhite: Large Print on Steroids? by Steve Kelley

Not all low vision readers are the same. Some readers peacefully migrate to narrated books or text-to-speech relatively easily; others want print and fill in as needed with narrated books or text-to-speech. These are the folks who hesitate when, as a professional vision rehabilitation therapist (my day job), I suggest Talking Books, I understand because I am one of them.

The Latest Generation Paperwhite

When Amazon began promoting their new Kindle Paperwhite, featuring a non glare screen, sharper image and text detail, water proof, etc. I started dreaming of those days at Fortune’s Rocks Beach with a paperback book or the local paper in hand, reading beneath the beach umbrella, or just sitting in an easy chair at home, by the fire, reading from a book next to the table lamp with nothing more than my glasses—no magnifier, no electronic magnifier, no weighty iPad—just a book.

The new Kindle Paperwhite held the promise of a lightweight electronic reader that offered crisp text in a variety of lighting conditions, with the benefit of being able to adjust the font size, magnify the screen if needed, and speak the text on those occasions when I preferred the device to read to me.

First Impressions of Accessibility Features

The first week of November I received the Paperwhite, with a 6 inch screen, which I preordered several weeks before, for $129, and I eagerly began setting it up to read fellow peer advisor Elizabeth Sammons's first book, "The Lyra and the Cross" (by the way, another good gift suggestion!).

Like the Kindle Fire tablets, the Paperwhite has an "Accessibility" menu item under the broader "Settings" menu. The Paperwhite, like the Kindle Fire uses the VoiceView screen reader for text-to-speech, and the display can invert the color scheme for light text on a black background. It does not have is "Screen Magnification," (allows the user to enlarge text and graphical information displayed on the screen. ) and this may be for many low vision users, who use both, a significant omission.

Practically, what this means, is that the font size on the Paperwhite may be increased significantly when reading a book or magazine, but when using the menus, or making a purchase, have a magnifier handy because there is no way to magnify the screen electronically, the way you can on the Kindle Fire.

screen shot of large print screen and settings

Caption: Kindle Paperwhite Large Print and Screen Settings

With earbuds in hand, the Accessibility menu open and Voice View clicked on, a dialog box opens—"Searching for Bluetooth audio devices…" meaning of course, that there is no longer any standard audio out jack for earbuds. This seems to be, after all the new standard, right? With an external Bluetooth speaker paired to the Kindle, VoiceView reads menu items on the screen and the text of the book open, with gestures similar, but more limited than those found with the Kindle Fire VoiceView settings.

If you are a regular VoiceView text-to-speech reader, it would almost make more sense to go for the 7 inch Kindle Fire tablet that retails for $49. It too has VoiceView at less than half the price! In addition, it has the screen magnification accessibility option, and might still have the headphone jack!

Lightweight and Waterproof

What really got me excited about this new Paperwhite was the possibility of a lightweight tablet, with crisp looking text, on a screen with less glare from a light or when outdoors.

The Paperwhite does meet these specifications. When reading on the tablet either inside under a light, or outside in the sun light, there is almost no glare and the font size can be made much larger and bolder than standard large print from a book. In addition, the tablet weighs less than many paperbacks do, so it is comfortable to hold. The newest Kindle Paperwhite weighs in at a slender 4.7 ounces, which is lighter than the previous version at 7.2 ounces. Also this latest generation could accidentally be left out on the deck in a rain shower because it is waterproof.

For many low vision users, the crisp, glare-free text on the new Paperwhite, coupled with greater storage, and a waterproof design, will be sufficient. Like me, they may need to keep a magnifier handy to work with the settings or to buy a new book or magazine.

On the other hand, I may return the new generation Paperwhite and instead purchasing a previous generation for a significant savings—$79 for a previous generation Paperwhite instead of $129 for the new generation. Amazon may hook me back in to a newer version when they add screen magnification to the accessibility settings. Who knows. I might even be able to use my wired earbuds on the previous generation Paperwhite!

Other Articles in Holiday Gifts Series

Part 1 Holiday Series

Part 2 Holiday Gift Series

Getting Ready for the Holidays Gift Ideas

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