April 24, 2014

National Federation of the Blind Condemns Amazon’s Push to Put Kindle E-books in Schools, Group Will Picket at Amazon HQ Next Week

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From the NFB:

In protest of a recent push by Amazon.com to put Kindle e-books, which are inaccessible to blind students, into K-12 classrooms across the country, members and supporters of the National Federation of the Blind will conduct an informational picket at the company’s headquarters on Wednesday, December 12.

The action comes on the heels of Amazon’s launch of Whispercast, a system designed to allow teachers and school administrators to push Kindle e-books to different devices, theoretically allowing the sharing of content among devices brought to school by the students.  Kindle content, unlike some other e-book products, is not accessible to blind students, even on devices that are themselves accessible to the blind, such as personal computers and iPads.

This is because Amazon makes Kindle content available only to its own proprietary text-to-speech engine, if at all, rather than to accessibility applications of the reader’s choice.  Furthermore, the limited accessibility features that Amazon has implemented do not allow for the kind of detailed reading that students need to do in an educational setting.  Although the books can be read aloud with text-to-speech, the student cannot use the accessibility features of his or her device to learn proper spelling and punctuation, look up words in the dictionary, annotate or highlight significant passages, or take advantage of the many other features that Kindle devices and applications make available to sighted students.  Kindle e-books also cannot be displayed on Braille devices, making them inaccessible to blind and deaf-blind students who read Braille.

Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “Amazon has repeatedly demonstrated utter indifference to the recommendations of blind Americans for full accessibility of its Kindle e-books and failed to follow the best practices of other e-book providers.  Blind Americans will not tolerate this behavior any longer.  While we urge Amazon to correct the many obvious deficiencies in its implementation of accessibility and remain willing to work with the company to help it do so, we will oppose the integration of these products into America’s classrooms until Amazon addresses these deficiencies.  Putting inaccessible technology in the classroom not only discriminates against blind students and segregates them from their peers, but also violates the law.”
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Gary Price About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.