6 Helpful Accessibility Features in the Amazon Kindle

There’s 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 the features that eReaders have for making reading more accessible to people with disabilities.

In recent years, eReaders have grown drastically 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 last 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 the accessibility options that can make reading an easier and more enjoyable experience.

The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite, the most popular eReader on the market and the one we used for testing while writing this article, has fonts, settings, and special features that enhance the reading experience for readers with disabilities. Amazon representative Jackie Burke told PCMag, “Kindle’s Accessibility Team is constantly working to build features that ensure readers of all abilities can reap the benefits of digital reading experiences. We believe reading is essential for a healthy society, so making sure everyone has access to books is something we’re passionate about.”

These six accessibility features are ones you should know 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, which is exclusive to the Kindle Paperwhite, pairs with a screen reading device to read everything on the page out loud. Currently, the Amazon store has more than 12 million screen-reader-supported books, 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, turn the device to pairing mode. Press and hold the power button for nine seconds, then hold two fingers spaced apart on the screen for one second. Be patient because it can take up to two minutes for your Bluetooth device to pair with the Kindle. When the pairing is successful, you hear, “Hold two fingers on the screen to use this audio device with VoiceView screen reader on Kindle.”

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


A Kindle Paperwhite with the Word Wise feature showing definitions of words on the page of a book

(Credit: Meg St-Esprit)

2.Word Wise for Definitions

Word Wise is a great tool that lets people read without interruption any material that may be slightly beyond their reading level. Children and people learning English are two examples of those who might benefit. This feature is currently only available in English. When WordWise is enabled, simple definitions appear above difficult words. Tapping on the word pulls up a menu with more definitions and synonyms. The level and number of hints displayed can be adjusted within the Word Wise settings.

To activate Word Wise, tap the oh icon where font controls are located at the top of the reading page. Under the More tab, Word Wise is the bottom option. Here you can toggle Word Wise on and off and adjust what 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 shows hints directly within the text so that users do not have to stop reading, X-Ray provides a higher-level overview of characters, images, and phrases used in the book that the reader might not be familiar with or needs to reference. For example, you can pull up a list of all the characters in a book and see a graph showing how often and where in the book the character’s name appears. X-Ray can also help readers better understand complex plots 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. In the drop-down menu, select X-Ray. You can click through remarkable 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 someone to struggle with processing letters, numbers, and symbols. Many excellent learning tools support dyslexic individuals, including the OpenDyslexic(Opens in a new window) font. This font uses characters that are heavier on the bottom, which helps dyslexic people focus.

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


The page layout options on a Kindle Paperwhite

(Credit: Meg St-Esprit)

5. Varying Font Sizes and Layouts for Visual Enhancement

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

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All the font and page layout options are located under the oh tab when the user is within a book.


Dark Mode enabled on a Kindle Paperwhite

(Credit: Meg St-Esprit)

6. Dark Mode for Less Eye Strain and Reduced Stimulation

There’s evidence that reading light words on a dark background reduces eye strain and makes reading easier overall. For users with sensory processing differences, Dark Mode can also reduce the amount of stimulation a screen creates, allowing them to enjoy the reading process more fully. Even though the Paperwhite is designed with an anti-glare screen that mimics a printed page, they still have backlights that some readers are sensitive to.

To activate Dark Mode, which is only available on the two most recent versions of Kindle Paperwhites, tap the Accessibility tab under the main settings. Toggle “Invert black and white” to on, and you’re ready to go.


What’s Next for Amazon Kindle?

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

Amazon has participated in a multiyear collaboration with the National Federation for the Blind(Opens in a new window), which the company says resulted in significant improvements in how blind users read with a Kindle Paperwhite and other Amazon devices. The team has expanded its focus to look at how to improve the reading experience for customers who are dyslexic, autistic, or have ADHD. You can read more about other accessibility options for Amazon products here(Opens in a new window).

For more about making your Kindle experience even better, check out our top Kindle tips every reader should know, as well as how to manage your Kindle devices and content.

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