6 Useful Accessibility Features in Amazon Kindle


Nothing like the smell of books. The earthy, slightly musty scent of a library or bookstore evokes strong emotions in avid readers. But physical books lack nearly all of the features that e-readers have to make reading more accessible to people with disabilities.

In recent years, e-readers have grown considerably in popularity. A 2021 survey by Pew Research (Opens in a new window)Center found that 30% of Americans had read an ebook in the past 12 months.(Opens in a new window)a 5% increase since a similar survey in 2019. If you’re relatively new to using an eReader, you may not have explored all of the accessibility options that can make reading easier and more pleasant.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite, the most popular e-reader on the market and the one we used to test while writing this article, has special fonts, settings, and features that improve the reading experience for readers with disabilities. Amazon representative Jackie Burke told PCMag, “Kindle’s accessibility team is constantly working to create features that ensure readers of all abilities can enjoy the benefits of digital reading experiences. We believe that reading is essential for a healthy society, so ensuring that everyone has access to books is something we are passionate about.

These six accessibility features are ones you should know about for yourself or anyone else in your life who might benefit from them.

(Credit: Meg St-Esprit)

1. VoiceView for screen readers (Paperwhite only)

VoiceView was created for readers who use assistive technology, namely screen readers. This feature, exclusive to the Kindle Paperwhite, pairs with a screen reader device to read everything on the page aloud. Currently, the Amazon store has more than 12 million books that are compatible with screen readers, which you need to use this feature. VoiceView also works with braille display devices(Opens in a new window).

To pair an assistive technology device with a Kindle Paperwhite, put the device into pairing mode. Press and hold the power button for nine seconds, then hold two fingers apart on the screen for one second. Please be patient, as it may take up to two minutes for your Bluetooth device to pair with the Kindle. When pairing is successful, you hear “Hold two fingers on the screen to use this audio device with the VoiceView screen reader on Kindle”.

All VoiceView settings are located in the quick action menu at the top of the Kindle screen, under the Accessibility tab.

A Kindle Paperwhite with the Word Wise feature displaying word definitions on a book page

(Credit: Meg St-Esprit)

2. Word Wise for Definitions

Word Wise is a great tool that allows people to uninterruptedly read any material that may be slightly beyond their reading level. Children and people learning English are two examples of those who could benefit. This feature is currently only available in English. When WordWise is on, simple definitions appear above difficult words. Tapping on the word brings up a menu with more definitions and synonyms. The level and number of hints displayed can be adjusted in Word Wise’s settings.

To activate Word Wise, press the Aa icon where the font controls are located at the top of the reading page. Under the More tab, Word Wise is the bottom option. Here you can turn Word Wise on and off and adjust the level of support you need.

A Kindle Paperwhite showing the X-Ray feature, where a list of characters and locations from a book are listed

(Credit: Meg St-Esprit)

3. X-ray for reference

While Word Wise displays tips right in the text so users don’t have to stop reading, X-Ray provides a next-level preview of the characters, images, and phrases used in the book that the reader might not know or need reference. For example, you can view a list of all the characters in a book and see a graph showing how often and where the character’s name appears in the book. X-Ray can also help readers better understand complex storylines if that’s an area they struggle with.

To activate X-Ray mode, open the book in question and click on the three dots in the upper right corner. From the drop-down menu, select X-Ray. You can click on notable clips, people, terms, and images.

A Kindle Paperwhite with the font selection set to Open Dyslexic

(Credit: Meg St-Esprit)

4. OpenDyslexic font for easier reading

Dyslexia is a learning disability that causes a person to have trouble processing letters, numbers, and symbols. Many great learning tools support people with dyslexia, including the OpenDyslexic(Opens in a new window) Character font. This font uses heavier characters at the bottom, which helps people with dyslexia to concentrate.

To activate the OpenDyslexic font, open a book and click on the Aa icon that controls font size and appearance. Under the Font option, tap on Font Family. OpenDyslexic is there alongside other font options.

The Layout Options on a Kindle Paperwhite

(Credit: Meg St-Esprit)

5. Different font sizes and layouts for visual enhancement

Large-print books are often popular among readers with limited eyesight. E-readers can turn any book into a large-print version by letting you customize almost everything about how the words look on the page. Larger fonts, greater spacing, and varying margins allow Kindle users to visually set up a page in a way that works best for them.

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All font and layout options can be found under the Aa tab when the user is in a book.

Dark Mode Enabled on a Kindle Paperwhite

(Credit: Meg St-Esprit)

6. Dark mode for less eye strain and reduced stimulation

Reading bright words against a dark background is proven to reduce eye strain and make reading easier overall. For users with differences in sensory processing, Dark Mode can also reduce the amount of stimulation created by a screen, allowing them to more fully enjoy the reading process. Even though the Paperwhite is designed with an anti-glare screen that mimics a printed page, it still has backlights that some readers are sensitive to.

To enable dark mode, which is only available on the two most recent versions of Kindle Paperwhites, tap the Accessibility tab under the main settings. Activate “Invert black and white” and you are good to go.

What’s next for the Amazon Kindle?

Overall, the Amazon Kindle (and the Paperwhite in particular) has good accessibility features. However, we would like to see all of these options grouped together under the Accessibility tab so that readers can find and activate them easily and quickly.

Amazon participated in a multi-year collaboration with the National Federation of the Blind(Opens in a new window), which the company says has resulted in significant improvements in how blind users read with a Kindle Paperwhite and other Amazon devices. The team focused on how to improve the reading experience for customers with dyslexia, autism or ADHD. You can learn more about other accessibility options for Amazon products here(Opens in a new window).

For more on improving your Kindle experience, check out our top Kindle tips every reader should know, as well as managing your Kindle devices and content.

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