Blog Date: 
Friday, November 16, 2012
Amy Mason and Clara Van Gerven

Earlier today, the AT Team (or as we’re known in our more glamorous moments, the A Team) learned from the grapevine that there was more in the way of accessibility to be had from the Nook HD+/Tablet. You’ll remember that last time we searched and searched (manual,, Google of course), and came up empty handed. We also asked and asked, and got nothing. Well, we’re not infallible, and always glad to find more accessibility, so we figured we’d give it another go. Here are our preliminary and entirely experimental (for lack of documentation) findings.

First we downloaded Benetech’s Go Read app for the Nook, since that’s where we had been pointed. This process was not accessible, and the app did not start to speak. That function has to be turned on in the reading tools menu (also inaccessible), and it is listed as “Read to Me”. That started the text on the page reading but did not reveal the controls at the bottom of the page, which could only be selected by tapping on the spot.

Always keen to read the manual, we searched for documentation on Go Read and turned up nothing but the app store description, so we went back to experimentation, and found help documentation in the app itself. With that we fared reasonably well.

Meanwhile, we found a Nook setting that had eluded us before:
In settings>all settings>applications>reader> we selected enable accessibility (beta) which will actually provide speech to read Nook books. That’s quite momentous, and would be even better if it were documented somewhere we could find it, or if any of the customer service reps knew about it. Still – it’s more than we’ve seen previously.

In Reader, the Nook book reading app, double tap will stop and start reading, but not consistently. Tap and hold brings up a menu, but only some of the time. If that sounds vague, it is because it really was that inconsistent in our testing. The menu gives control over rate of speech and lets a user create bookmarks, and can go to the table of contents. It does not work anywhere outside the Reader, so selecting a book or using other functionality was still not possible. No other reading gestures were uncovered in testing.

The experience gets stranger. Back in Go Read, once Read to Me was turned on, it brought up a settings menu. That menu now included options for turning on Talkback, Large font, and Explore By Touch. With Talkback on, controls were now being read, as is typical in Android Ice Cream Sandwich, and had to be hit exactly to select. It wasn’t a great touch gesture in Ice Cream Sandwich when we last tested it, and it is no better on the Nook, but still better than nothing. Talkback worked to discover battery level and the like. In Go Read, the gestures listed there now worked, but not at all consistently.

On a final note, the unlock gesture is a pretty precise upward swipe from the center bottom of the screen to just below the center of the screen; it is not spoken or described by Talkback or the Reader feature. If the screen is locked while reading a Nook book with Reader (with Talkback on), the gesture works with one finger. If the screen is locked while using another part of the device (with Talkback on), then the gesture must be done with two fingers. Go figure.

I’m not sure if this makes the accessibility better or just more confusing.