[Nfbc-info] National Federation of the Blind and American Council of the Blind File Discrimination Suit Against Arizona State University

Freeh, Jessica JFreeh at nfb.org
Thu Jun 25 20:25:15 UTC 2009



Chris Danielsen

Director of Public Relations

National Federation of the Blind

(410) 659-9314, extension 2330

(410) 262-1281 (Cell)

cdanielsen at nfb.org

National Federation of the Blind and American Council of the Blind
File Discrimination Suit Against Arizona State University

University’s Amazon Kindle DX Pilot Program Discriminates Against the Blind

Baltimore, Maryland (June 25, 2009): The National 
Federation of the Blind (NFB) and the American 
Council of the Blind (ACB) filed suit today 
against Arizona State University (ASU) to prevent 
the university from deploying Amazon’s Kindle DX 
electronic reading device as a means of 
distributing electronic textbooks to its students 
because the device cannot be used by blind 
students.  Darrell Shandrow, a blind ASU student, 
is also a named plaintiff in the action.  The 
Kindle DX features text-to-speech technology that 
can read textbooks aloud to blind students.  The 
menus of the device are not accessible to the 
blind, however, making it impossible for a blind 
user to purchase books from Amazon’s Kindle 
store, select a book to read, activate the 
text-to-speech feature, and use the advanced 
reading functions available on the Kindle DX.  In 
addition to ASU, five other institutions of 
higher education are deploying the Kindle DX as 
part of a pilot project to assess the role of 
electronic textbooks and reading devices in the 
classroom.  The NFB and ACB have also filed 
complaints with the Office for Civil Rights of 
the U.S. Department of Education and the Civil 
Rights Division of the U.S. Department of 
Justice, asking for investigations of these five 
institutions, which are: Case Western Reserve 
University, the Darden School of Business at the 
University of Virginia, Pace University, 
Princeton University, and Reed College.  The 
lawsuit and complaints allege violations of the 
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National 
Federation of the Blind, said: “Given the 
highly-advanced technology involved, there is no 
good reason that Amazon’s Kindle DX device should 
be inaccessible to blind students.  Amazon could 
have used the same text-to-speech technology that 
reads e-books on the device aloud to make its 
menus accessible to the blind, but it chose not 
to do so.  Worse yet, six American higher 
education institutions that are subject to 
federal laws requiring that they not discriminate 
against students with disabilities plan to deploy 
this device, even though they know that it cannot 
be used by blind students.  The National 
Federation of the Blind will not tolerate this 
unconscionable discrimination against and callous 
indifference to the right of blind students to 
receive an equal education.  We hope that this 
situation can be rectified in a manner that 
allows this exciting new reading technology to be 
made available to blind and sighted students alike.”

Darrell Shandrow, a blind student pursuing a 
degree in journalism at ASU, said: “Not having 
access to the advanced reading features of the 
Kindle DX­including the ability to download books 
and course materials, add my own bookmarks and 
notes, and look up supplemental information 
instantly on the Internet when I encounter it in 
my reading­will lock me out of this new 
technology and put me and other blind students at 
a competitive disadvantage relative to our 
sighted peers.  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, and 
these texts will not provide the access and 
features available to other students.  That is 
why I am standing up for myself and with other 
blind Americans to end this blatant discrimination.”


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