US DOJ: Kindle in classroom hurts blind students

The agency's settlement prohibits three schools from promoting the use of the Kindle in classrooms
  • (IDG News Service)
  • — 14 January, 2010 06:43

Three U.S. universities will stop promoting the use of Amazon.com's Kindle DX e-book reader in classrooms after complaints that the device doesn't give blind students equal access to information.

Settlements with Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Pace University in New York City and Reed College in Portland, Oregon, were announced Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Justice. The National Federation of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind had complained that use of the Kindle devices discriminates against students with vision problems.

The complaints about the Kindle were based on the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability.

The three universities were among six schools participating in an Amazon.com pilot program testing the use of the Kindle DX in classrooms. On Monday, a fourth participating school, Arizona State University, also reached a settlement with the DOJ and the two organizations representing the blind.

Three other schools announced in late 2009 they will not deploy Kindle in classrooms.

The Kindle DX has the capability to convert text to synthesized speech, but the device does not include text-to-speech functionality for its menu and navigational controls, the DOJ said in a press release. Some reviewers and users of the device's text-to-speech software have also said the speech is difficult to listen to and the conversion can be inaccurate.

The agreements are a "step forward" for blind students, said Chris Danielsen, director of public relations at the National Federation of the Blind. The group is encouraged that Amazon has announced improvements for the Kindle, he added.

"With regard to the Kindle DX, it can read books aloud, but a blind person cannot independently select a book, start the read-aloud function, or navigate within the book, among other things," he added. "In other words, a blind student could only really use the device with the assistance of a sighted person."

Amazon.com is making changes to the Kindle to make it more accessible to blind people, a spokesman there said. The Kindle team is working on an audio-based menu system, and the devices will have a super-size font added, Amazon said in a press release. Those new features are due out by mid-2010, the company said.

"Kindle is for anyone who loves to read -- in fact, we've heard from thousands of vision-impaired customers and customers with learning disabilities over the past two years who have been helped tremendously by Kindle," Ian Freed, vice president for Amazon Kindle, said in a statement. "With some key modifications, we believe Kindle can be a breakthrough device for the blind, and the team is excited about making these enhancements."

Under the agreements reached Wednesday, the universities generally will not purchase, recommend or promote use of the Kindle DX, or any other dedicated electronic book reader, unless the devices are fully accessible to students who are blind or have low vision.

The universities agreed that if they use dedicated electronic book readers, they will ensure that students with vision disabilities are able to access and acquire the same materials and information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as sighted students with substantially equivalent ease of use.

The DOJ's agreement with each university becomes effective at the end of the Kindle pilot projects.

"Advancing technology is systematically changing the way universities approach education, but we must be sure that emerging technologies offer individuals with disabilities the same opportunities as other students," Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez said in a statement. "These agreements underscore the importance of full and equal educational opportunities for everyone."

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Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Topics: kindle

Comments

Anonymous

1

Political Corectness gone mad.

I fail to see how a Kindle could be harder to use then a physical book, for someone who is blind or visually impaired. It really makes me wonder if the same organizations will now pressure Universities to discourage the use of books and journals for exactly the same reason.

The device may need improvement but it is still a step ahead. This is definitely an example of the letter of the law being applied in the most stupid way possible. Especially if Amazon has already committed itself to improving the accessibility of the device for visually impaired users.

Anonymous

2

I... don't understand.

How are they getting by with the universities asking them to use books?

Anonymous

3

Remove all visual media now

Therefore, all LCD screens, whiteboards, books, and writing devices other than hole punchers and braile stampers should be immediately removed from all Public schools and government buildings. These devices hurt blind students and citizens.

That case should have been IMMEDIATELY tossed out of court based on the sheer stupidty of the argument. Then the lawyers should have been found in contempt of court and incompetent to practice law. I actually have a blind child, and even I think this is ridiculous.

Anonymous

4

What a shame

I am all for the Americans with disabilities act, but this is rediculous. This is akin to not letting classrooms have lights because blind people couldnt benefit from them. Holding schools back from adopting new technology that saves time, money and natural resources because a few people cant benefit from it is a crime. Shame on the National foundation for the blind and the other organizations involved for holding other kids back.

Anonymous

5

Contradictions

By this logic, all media relying on visual aids should be removed from schools. No more blackboards, no more projectors, no more books.

Then, after removing all visual media, the sighted people will complain that they are at a disadvantage because everything left is in brail, which they can't read.

The next logical step is to remove all brail from schools because this gives an unfair advantage to blind students.

In fact, we should just eliminate universities altogether...because we cannot make people homogeneous, and as long as some people are different, some person will benefit more than another person by some form of media.

Anonymous

6

Contradictions

By this logic, all media relying on visual aids should be removed from schools. No more blackboards, no more projectors, no more books.

Then, after removing all visual media, the sighted people will complain that they are at a disadvantage because everything left is in brail, which they can't read.

The next logical step is to remove all brail from schools because this gives an unfair advantage to blind students.

In fact, we should just eliminate universities altogether...because we cannot make people homogeneous, and as long as some people are different, some person will benefit more than another person by some form of media.

Anonymous

7

Pay attention people...

The problem is that the Kindle supports functions which enable the blind to read the books (or listen, text-to-speech) but makes it very difficult, if not impossible, for a blind person to enable and use those functions. Geeze, we can't even get the people commenting here to read the article in front of them...

Anonymous

8

DOJ given raise by Obama

They are doing such a good job.
Reed here in Oregon has some of the brightest minds around.
I guess they put out crappy lawyers....

Anonymous

9

There was no court case, no ruling

This issue never saw a courtroom. That's what "settlement" means: they settled out of court.

Those calling for the case to be tossed out of court, or for the lawyers to be disbarred never read the article, or don't comprehend English.

Anonymous

10

WOW JUST WOW

Is the United States going INSANE. Wow Just Wow. American IQ's have just dropped a few more points. When I thought I herd it all this just takes the cake. Im glad I live in Canada.

Anonymous

11

We are paying attention

And what functions does a normal paper text book offer a blind person? I would suspect the same or less than a Kindle. Should we ban those too?

Anonymous

12

What about printed text?

The story is missing a key point - what is it exactly that makes Kindle bad and printed textbooks OK?

Perhaps the argument is that feeding printed books into Kurzweil readers (or whatever) is well established procedure, while there's literally no way for a blind person to use Kindle as currently offered, for the reasons cited. That might be a fair point.

But if the argument is that letting sighted students use Kindle while "limiting" blind students to printed textboooks is inherently unfair because Kindle can do a few extra things, I agree with other posters here - that's completely idiotic.

Anonymous

13

miss the point

I think many of the previous posters miss much of the point. Many (if not all) college textbooks are available in either electronic format for the blind or on audio disk. Often, it's only available in this format TO the disabled students, who have specialized readers that are able to help them easily access the information. I attended numerous classes in college where there were paid note takers (other students already in the class) for students unable to take notes (with vision, learning or other physical disability).

If a text were ONLY available in kindle or other specialized format, that would make it nearly impossible for visually impaired or other disabled students to access the information. I completely understand why the schools settled this rather than have a blind student take them to court. The school would lose.

Anonymous

14

alternative point to be 'seen'

It's not the e-reader per se that's the issue here... It's the promotion of a new commercial technology into the classroom, by the universities which are bound to adhere to U.S. Dept of Ed policy. The Kindle could, should and will accommodate the blind. But until it does, favoring its use by promoting it without is discriminatory.

It's not as if the relationships that Amazon has built will be hurt by this, only delayed and advertised.

- You are entitled to your own opinions but you don't get to make up your own facts. -

Anonymous

15

How do you spell that?

Did you mean RedIckUlose or ReDicYouLouse... or is this something from the Chronicles of Riddick?

lol <a href="https://www.adbusters.org">I would prefer not</a>

Anonymous

16

Blah blah blah

This all sounds too Harry Bergeron to me. Gotta love it.

Anonymous

17

Annon

I would like to see a blind person "listen" to my calculus, circuits or CAD classes.

Anonymous

18

No you're not

Where in the world do you get the word "ban"? The Universities simply aren't sponsoring/promoting their use anymore. Are the students suddenly not allowed to have a Kindle at all? No, anyone who wants to use a Kindle can use one.

Furthermore, use your head for more than beating against the wall. If a College wants to support text books for the blind, they purchase/support books printed in braille. If they want to support (which they obviously do) e-book reader devices, then they obviously can't support/purchase Kindles because the functions of the Kindle used to support the blind is inaccessible, or at least horribly difficult to access, to the blind. This article is high-lighting that fact.

Anonymous

19

Here's A Small Voilin - Go Have Fun

Are you <em>kidding</em> me?! You know what else discriminates against blind people - <strong>LIFE</strong>! Deal with it. If this is such a large issue, take down chalkboards and throw away the books (which BTW <em>can't</em> do text to speech at all). Tell blind kids that a Kindle actually <em>can</em> help them out for once, but it's just not good enough to even consider it as an option. Blind people can't drive cars, and maybe since this is also discriminatory we should get rid of them too. All of this whining makes me want to punch these people in the face, which again is discriminatory against blind people, because they won't see it coming.

Being an American and reading comments about us, well, yes - our IQ is dropping. Seriously, stupidity and selfishness are supreme here. Have you seen the movie Idiocracy? That's us in 10 years at the rate we're going.

Anonymous

20

There's no such thing...

as a textbook that is only available on the Kindle. There's no reason that visually impaired students in these classes can't get a braille version of the textbook. If that was sufficient before, why is it not sufficient when they add the Kindle to the equation?

Anonymous

21

The Great Equalizer

The only great equalizer in life is death!

Anonymous

22

Sense?

So our options here are to promote a textbook, which is totally illegible to a blind person, or a Kindle textbook, which has some, but poor text-to-speech. Until the last fifty years, a book never talked. Seems like it would be nicer to have some potential for translation? As long as there is a braile version of the book available for blind students as well, why in the world is it biased to recommend the Kindle? An e-book is still a book - e-ink or not! It has few advantages over using the paper version of the book, aside from weight.

Are they going to legislate against the schools that promote iPhones, next? I'm really all for building facilities for disabilities, but this just seems silly. We're holding ourselves back technologically as a nation, once again. I think the problem is that legislators are not technologically savvy enough to see a e-book as a book.

Anonymous

23

...to the raised dots on the page

A normal paper textbook can be made available in a braille edition. A hypothetical braille Kindle would qualify, as would the coming Kindle with UI narration.

Anonymous

24

Total bollocks

What's next? Should sighted people be forced to wear a blindfold in class and learn brail to assure equity with people who are blind. How about forcing everyone to use a wheelchair to assure parity with people who are paralyzed?

Anonymous

25

Actually

Calculus is very language orientated subject. No clue about circuits or cad.

Anonymous

26

Resize the Menu's Too

I considered getting a Kindle for my mother who has macular degeneration. I was amazed that Amazon put all the effort into making the text size completely adjustable within books but didn't even think to make the text size adjustable for the menus and device navigation. There was no way my mother could use it by herself and I live 500 miles away so I can't be there to get her started inside a book. I know people have been complaining about this since the K1. It was careless of Amazon not to fix it to start with. It is negligent that they still haven't fixed it. I don't blame the blind students and I hope the DOJ stays on Amazon's case until they get the menus fixed for the vision impared as well as the blind.

Traci

Anonymous

27

What have you got against blind people?

What's wrong with schools deploying ebook readers that all their students can use? It's not like the Kindle is the only device out there.

Anonymous

28

whoops replied to the wrong message

Should've replied the message below. I must be blind or something.

Anonymous

29

Hold What Back?

Another techno sycophant. Please explain to what Kindle provides that a text book does not? Seriously, another piece of crapware that gets in the way of education.

And hey jackass, it doesn't sound like they were providing braile versions of the book for the blind! But thanks for playing.

You keep you Kindle and shove it up your a$$. This is not progress, rather this is regression. So who is going to pay for the Kindle? How long does the battery last? What happens when the battery dies? What happens when the Kindle crashes? Who will be providing the text books for the Kindle and at what cost? What happens when the Kindle is no longer developed? How long can I use the Kindle before I need to upgrade to the latest version?

The Kindle is the dumbest idea ever. Waste of time, money and resources.

Anonymous

30

Wow

You didn't read the complaint and what other have said. A blind person or a person with limited sight cannot use the Kindle without assistance. The navigation structure was not changed to accommodate people who could not see.

Thus it was an UNFINISHED PRODUCT.

Gotta know who your audience is. Since Amazon is targeting the education market, then should have known that part of your audience will be blind people. It looks like Amazon considered the blind with some of their features. So it's ridiculous that Amazon did not look at Kindle's navigation feature.

Anonymous

31

Canada has the same laws when it comes to disabilities.

Nice try jackass.

Anonymous

32

contact the asst. attorney general

Here is the contact information for the idiot public servant that pursued this claim:

http://www.justice.gov/crt/ofcaag.php

Office of the Assistant Attorney General
Mailing Address

U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Office of the Assistant Attorney General, Main
Washington, D.C. 20530

Telephone Number for the General Public - (202) 514-4609

Fax Numbers

(202) 514-0293
(202) 307-2572
(202) 307-2839

Telephone Device for the Deaf (TDD) - (202) 514-0716

Assistant Attorney General

Thomas E. Perez

frustrated teacher

33

and furthermore

Are you aware that if a student is identified with a handicapping condition (even if it that they have not studied for years) the teachers must make accommodations so the student will get good grades; even if they learn little or nothing. Common example: A student with a reading problem has the test read to them (OK so far) but the SPED teacher or aide will remove 2 of the 4 multiple choice answers when the read the test; and, they will ask them to "rethink" their answer if the SPED person thinks they guessed wrong. I've had such students at the top of my class grades when they did little to try to learn.

They tell me that is FEDERAL law and in most states STATE law. We wouldn't want them to feel bad, I guess.

Any wonder why the students from (insert your favorite country) are running circles around US Students. How about class rankings for scholarships, college admissions, etc.

I ask the SPED people how they would like to be in the operating room and find out the MD got there by accommodations. They don't understand the question.

There was even an engineering student at a state university that thought he should be excused from math classes because of his math handicap ....

Anonymous

34

And yet...

"The Kindle is the dumbest idea ever. Waste of time, money and resources."

There are thoese who said the same about the internet, cars, TV, radio, planes and phones. Those things seem to have manged to have worked out OK despite this.

Anonymous

35

Kudos to Amazon!

Kudos to Amazon for actually trying to make it ADA compliant. Why so much negativity? My only complaint is the price! :)

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