[Nfbc-info] FW: [stylist] Reading Rights Coalition Urges Authors to Allow Everyone Access to E-books

Angela fowler fowlers at syix.com
Tue Mar 31 02:14:14 UTC 2009

I thought you guys might be interested in this. Also, I'm genuinely curious
as to where the Authors' Guild is coming from on this. How is using
text-to-speech technology to access books we pay for a copyright
infringement? It seems ridiculous to me, but my knowledge of legal stuff is
minimal at best.  

-----Original Message-----
From: stylist-bounces at nfbnet.org [mailto:stylist-bounces at nfbnet.org] On
Behalf Of Freeh,Jessica (by way of David Andrews <dandrews at visi.com>)
Sent: Monday, March 30, 2009 7:04 PM
To: david.andrews at nfbnet.org
Subject: [stylist] Reading Rights Coalition Urges Authors to Allow Everyone
Access to E-books



Chris Danielsen

Director of Public Relations

National Federation of the Blind

(410) 659-9314, ext. 2330

(410) 262-1281 (Cell)
<mailto:cdanielsen at nfb.org>cdanielsen at nfb.org

Reading Rights Coalition Urges Authors to Allow Everyone Access to E-books

Informational Protest to be Held at Authors Guild Headquarters

New York City (March 30, 2009): The Reading Rights Coalition, which
represents people who cannot read print, will protest the threatened removal
of the text-to-speech function from e-books for the Amazon Kindle 2 outside
the Authors Guild headquarters in New York City at 31 East 32nd Street on
April 7, 2009, from noon to 2:00 p.m.  The coalition includes the blind,
people with dyslexia, people with learning or processing issues, seniors
losing vision, people with spinal cord injuries, people recovering from
strokes, and many others for whom the addition of text-to-speech on the
Kindle 2 promised for the first time easy, mainstream access to over 255,000

When Amazon released the Kindle 2 electronic book reader on February 9,
2009, the company announced that the device would be able to read e-books
aloud using text-to-speech technology.  Under pressure from the Authors
Guild, Amazon has announced that it will give authors and publishers the
ability to disable the text-to-speech function on any or all of their
e-books available for the Kindle 2.

Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said:
"The blind and print-disabled have for years utilized text-to-speech
technology to read and access information.  As technology advances and more
books move from hard-copy print to electronic formats, people with print
disabilities have for the first time in history the opportunity to enjoy
access to books on an equal basis with those who can read print.  Authors
and publishers who elect to disable text-to-speech for their e-books on the
Kindle 2 prevent people who are blind or have

other print disabilities from reading these e-books.  This is blatant
discrimination and we will not tolerate it."

Mike Shuttic, president of the Association on 
Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD), said: 
"AHEAD envisions educational and societal 
environments that value disability and embody 
equality of opportunity.  This vision of AHEAD is 
directly aligned with the efforts of this 
coalition.  Although much rhetoric is made about 
potential obstacles and problems that exist, the 
basic goal is clear and simple--access for 
everyone.  And why create something that prevents it?"

Mitch Pomerantz, president of the American 
Council of the Blind, said: "Removing the 
text-to-speech features closes the door on an 
innovative technological solution that would make 
regular print books available to tens of 
thousands of individuals who are blind or visually impaired."

Andrew Imparato, President and Chief Executive 
Officer for the American Association of People 
with Disabilities (AAPD), said: "It is outrageous 
when a technology device shuts out people with 
all kinds of disabilities.  AAPD works to remove 
barriers to accessibility and usability in 
technology, and we don't expect to see people 
with disabilities singled out by having to pay 
more for access.  New technologies, such as 
electronic books, should be available to everyone regardless of disability."

Paul Schroeder, vice president of programs and 
policy for the American Foundation for the Blind, 
said: "Those of us with print disabilities have 
long dreamed of a world in which books and media 
are available to us at the same time as everyone 
else. The Kindle 2 offers that possibility for 
the first time.  We hope publishers and authors 
come to see that text-to-speech is simply an 
alternative means of access to print."

Dr. Peter Blanck, chairman and university 
professor at Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse 
University, said: "As electronic books become the 
norm, denying universal access will result in 
more and more people with disabilities being left 
out of education, employment, and the societal 
conversation.  We will all suffer from the 
absence of their participation and contribution 
to the debates that occupy us as a society."

George Kerscher of the Digital Accessible 
Information System (DAISY) Consortium, said: "The 
DAISY Consortium envisions a world where people 
with print disabilities have equal access to 
information and knowledge, without delay or 
additional expense.  Authors and publishers 
surely must share this vision.  Now that the 
issue of human rights has been explained, and the 
opportunity for larger sales are known, I urge 
the Authors Guild to reverse their position on 
text-to-speech and join us in actively 
encouraging all publishers and reading technology 
developers to open the world of reading to 
everybody.  Authors, join us on the picket line."

Steve Jacobs, president of IDEAL Group Inc., 
said, "Not only is text-to-speech important to 
people who are blind, it is critical in providing 
quality educations to millions of young people 
who rely on text-to-speech to learn 
effectively.  This includes students with autism, 
learning disabilities, mobility disabilities, and 
cognitive disabilities that impact their ability 
to acquire information with their eyes only. I 
remain hopeful that the talented members of the 
Authors Guild come to understand the potential 
negative impact of disabling the text-to-speech 
function on their e-books and reconsider their position."

Cynthia D. Waddell, executive director of the 
International Center for Disability Resources on 
the Internet (ICDRI), said:  "The mission of 
ICDRI supports the removal of barriers in 
electronic and information technology and the 
promotion of equal access.  ICDRI welcomes the 
text-to-speech functionality being offered by the 
Kindle 2 since it increases mainstream access to 
books for the first time in history.  We question 
why the Authors Guild demands that it be turned 
it off since many more books would be sold if 
text-to-speech was turned back on.  Not only

does this feature benefit persons with 
disabilities, but it also helps persons for whom 
English is not their native language.  In an 
increasingly mobile society, flexibility in 
access to content improves the quality of life for everyone."

James Love, director of Knowledge Ecology 
International, said: "Knowing full well that not 
everyone can see, the Authors Guild wants the 
right to be seen, but not heard.  By bullying 
Amazon to change the technology of Kindle 2, the 
Authors Guild will either deny access to people 
who are disabled, or make them pay more.  By 
attacking disabled persons in this way, the 
Authors Guild is attacking everyone who would 
otherwise benefit from the contributions this 
community has the potential to offer."

James H. Wendorf, executive director for the 
National Center for Learning Disabilities, said: 
"Access to the written word is the cornerstone of 
education and democracy.  New technologies must 
serve individuals with disabilities, not impede 
them.  Our homes, schools and ultimately our 
economy rely on support for the future, not 
discriminating practices and beliefs from the past."

While the Kindle 2 is not currently accessible to 
blind users, Amazon recently announced on its 
Kindle 2 blog that it is currently at work on 
making the device's navigational features accessible to the blind.

The coalition includes: American Association of 
People with Disabilities, American Council of the 
Blind, American Foundation for the Blind, 
Association on Higher Education and Disability, 
Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Burton 
Blatt Institute, Digital Accessible Information 
System (DAISY) Consortium, Disability Rights 
Education and Defense Fund (DREDF), IDEAL Group, 
Inc., International Center for Disability 
Resources on the Internet, International Dyslexia 
Association, International Dyslexia 
Association--New York Branch, Knowledge Ecology 
International, Learning Disabilities Association 
of America, National Center for Learning 
Disabilities, National Disability Rights Network, 
National Federation of the Blind, NISH, and the 
National Spinal Cord Injury Association.  In 
addition to the April 7 New York City protest, 
the coalition will participate in the Los Angeles 
Times Festival of Books on April 25-26.


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