Modifying an E-reader for an Older or Low Vision Reader

To surprise my mother-in-law for her 91st birthday, I decided to make an attempt to return to her the gift of reading, which has become difficult due to macular degeneration issues. The first part was simple enough, since you can change the font size of any popular e-reader and/or change the orientation to landscape to get the maximum amount of words per line while still making the text comfortable to read.

The buttons on the e-reader itself were another issue because of their small print size and low contrast. I tackled this by taking a white Kindle 2 (which has larger buttons than the newer model and comes in white) and color-coding the keys as seen on the photo. (Sorry for the fuzziness. Speaking of low vision, my cell phone camera's a bit myopic!) Using fluorescent file folder labels cut into quarters and a bit of bright red nail polish for the top of the toggle switch, I settled on green for Next Page, yellow for Home, and orange for the Prev Page key. What I was looking for it higher contrast and something as simple and intuitive as possible.

Next, I created a large print simplified, single directions page, which I color-coded using highlighters, laminated, and gave to her caregiver, who will help her with anything more complex than turning pages. (Remember, my m-i-l is in her nineties!) Here's the text of that page, with my name and phone number omitted:

Using Your Kindle
1. To turn on and off, slide and release switch on top.
2. There will be a picture on the screen when it is turned off.
3. To select a book or choose a new book, press the yellow HOME button. Push the red toggle switch up or down to underline the title of the book you want to read. Then push on toggle switch to select.
4. While reading a book, use the green NEXT PAGE button to advance the page.
5. If you need to go back a page, press the orange PREV PAGE button.
6. I have set text for large print. To adjust or turn on Text-to-Speech (which makes the Kindle read aloud to you, if desired), press the Aa button. Then use toggle switch to choose (push up and down) and select (push).
7. Call C______ at XXX-XXX-XXXX if you need help or would like a new book added to your library.
8. Plug into wall will charger about once a week.

Since this Kindle is registered to me and uses 3G, I will be able to purchase new books for her and talk her caregiver through loading them to her Kindle. Or I can simply do it during visits.

By making this experience as simple and easy as possible, I hope to conquer my m-i-l's extreme resistance to any new technology. Since her caregiver is also tech-adverse, it was an interesting challenge. I'm not certain whether my gift will be a hit or a miss, or whether a more expensive but larger-screened Kindle DX would have been a better choice, but it occurred to me that many other folks who have aging parents or loved ones with visual impairments might be interested in my methods.

I'll let you know how it goes over!


Joni Rodgers said…
Colleen, that is brilliant! (What a nice daughter-in-law!)
Thank you. And the best part is, she really liked it!

You know, after we explained that it was NOT a picture frame. :) She readily grasped the "green means go" concept and is reading on it now. Whew!
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What a great, tricked out Kindle you gave your M-I-L! Good for you--and her.

By the way, I'm cracking up at the writing level of that spam message . . .
Thanks, Kathryn! And the writer of that spam should maybe try *reading* our blog for writing tips. ;)

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