Amazon’s Kindle reader has the ability to do text-to-speech, meaning that it can read books outloud to you. Perfect for those who are sight-impaired or blind, right? Well, it would be, except accessing the text-to-speech function requires navigating menus that only a sighted-person can easily navigate. That is not only the finding of schools participating in an Amazon Kindle trial program, but the complaint of a lawsuit which has now been filed against at least one of the schools participating in the trial.
The National Federation of the Blind, along with the American Council of the Blind, and blind Arizona State University student Darrell Shandrow, have sued Arizona State University – one of the universities that was participating in the Kindle program – claiming that the Kindle, and thus the university, is discriminating against blind students.
Claims Shandrow, “While my peers will have instant access to their course materials in electronic form, I will still have to wait weeks or months for accessible texts to be prepared for me. These texts will not provide the access and features available to other students.”
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Two of the universities participating in the program – the University of Winconsin at Madison and Syracuse University – have said that they will not purchase any more Kindles until Amazon addresses this issue.
Lauded Chris Danielson of the National Federation of the Blind, “These universities are saying, ‘Our policy is nondiscrimination, so we’re not going to adopt a technology we know for sure discriminates against blind students.”
(More likely they are saying “we don’t want to be sued so it’s easier to just back off from the technology.” Indeed, the National Federation of the Blind has also filed complaints with the Justice Department against five of the schools that were participating in the Kindle program, and Wisconsin and Syracuse are not listed in those complaints.)
According to Amazon spokesmen Drew Herdener, Amazon is “working on” making the Kindle more fully accessible to the visually impaired.
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