January 15, 2010
DOJ and Universities Settle Over Kindle DX Access to Blind Students
The Justice Department has reached agreements with several universities that considered the Kindle as a teaching device. The concern from the Department is that the Kindle's lack of audio menu navigation for blind or low vision individuals violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. The agreements call the the universities not to purchase, recommend, or promote the use of the Kindle DX, or any other dedicated electronic book reader unless the device is fully accessible to vision impaired students. The universities named in the DOJ press release are Case Western Reserve, Pace, and Reed College. Agreements were reached earlier with Arizona State.
Note that many major publishers objected last year to the text-to-speech feature for content as they believed it would undermine the market for audio books. Amazon did, in fact, disable the feature when the objections were raised. Looking back, it's hard to believe that anyone with a Kindle who licensed a text (you'll never own it, read the EULA) would actually buy a second copy as audio. Then again, Washington lobbyist Steven Metalitz who represents content holders such as the RIAA and the MPAA objected to a worldwide treaty that would guarantee access to copyrighted material by the blind. His objection is based on the premise that such a treaty would weaken copyright protection norms. Give in to the blind and copyright enforcement starts down that slippery slope, to, I don't know, rationality? [MG]