One of the least appreciated conveniences MP3 players have given us is the capability to fit a library of audiobooks in our pocket. For those with vision impairment or blindness, the ease of instantly downloading digital audiobooks is especially liberating, compared with the days of CDs and cassettes. Unfortunately, most MP3 players simply aren't designed with accessibility in mind, keeping the convenience of digital audiobooks out of reach for those who would most appreciate it.
The HumanWare VictorReader Stream digital-audio player isn't particularly slim, attractive, or affordable ($349), but its unique design is made specifically for the needs of blind and vision-impaired users. The device is laid out similarly to a large mobile phone, complete with a spacious numerical keypad and dedicated volume buttons on the side. A numerical keypad may seem like an odd choice of navigation for a portable audio player, but in its defense, few other interfaces are as instantly and universally recognizable to the touch. The tricky part is remembering exactly what each key represents. For instance, repeatedly pressing the number one will cycle you though the Stream's main menu categories, each announced over your headphones or the internal speaker in a pleasant synthetic voice.
Below the keypad are basic playback controls (Play, Pause, Reverse, and Skip), each differentiated by the shape of its key. You'll also find an oval-shaped key above the play button that advances the built-in sleep timer in increments of 15 minutes, in case you have a tendency to doze off while listening to books.… Read more