[nfb-talk] National Federation of the Blind Defends Rights of Blind Students

John Heim jheim at math.wisc.edu
Tue Aug 10 14:38:55 UTC 2010

Yeah, the arguments against what the NFB, ACB, and Justice Department have 
done are laughable.  Critics would have us believe Amazon made the Kindle 
accessible on its own because the free market required it. Hmmm.... Nah, I 
gotta say I don't think so.

The closest that argument comes to making sense is the fact that some 
universities  not named in the lawsuit dropped their plans to buy kindles 
because it wasn't accessible. But they did that because of the lawsuits. 
Some universities had the foresight to realize that their plans to buy 
kindles violated anti-discrimination laws and dropped their plans before any 
legal action was taken against them.  The University of Wisconsin, where I 
work, was one of them. But there is no reason to believe they'd have done 
that if the law didn't require it.Amazon saw what was happening and fixed 
their device.

Critics also point to the variety of accessible devices out there like the 
IPhone and IPad saying its evidence that the free market works. But its just 
not true. Apple developed a screen reader because they knew that if they 
didn't have a screen reader, they wouldn't be able to sell Macintoshes to 
schools and universities. I saw this first hand at the University of 
Wisconsin. We started putting Windows machines with jaws into the computer 
labs where there used to be Macs. We didn't have any choice. We had to 
supply computers with screen readers. Now, Macs are going back into the 
libraries and computer labs because each Mac comes with a free screen 

The key point here is that Amazon and Apple  made their products accessible 
to sell them to schools, not to blind people.  They didn't say, "We need to 
make our products accessible in order to tap into that very lucrative blind 
market." They simply realized they wouldn't be able to sell their products 
to schools unless they were accessible and that's because of laws and 
regulations, not the free market.

The fact is that even schools and universities will ignore the laws 
requiring access unless they are forced to comply. I've seen this too first 
hand at the University of Wisconsin. People want to do the right thing but 
they have budgets and time constraints to deal with. As someone who ahs 
dealt with these issues for many years, I don't believe for a second that 
any university would have stopped its plans to buy the Kindle had it not 
been for the lawsuits.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Freeh,Jessica (by way of David Andrews <dandrews at visi.com>)" 
<JFreeh at nfb.org>
To: <david.andrews at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Tuesday, August 10, 2010 2:42 AM
Subject: [nfb-talk] National Federation of the Blind Defends Rights of Blind 



Chris Danielsen

Director of Public Relations

National Federation of the Blind

(410) 659-9314, extension 2330

(410) 262-1281 (Cell)

<mailto:cdanielsen at nfb.org>cdanielsen at nfb.org

National Federation of the Blind Defends Rights of Blind Students

Calls for Equal Access to Information and Technology in America's 

Baltimore, Maryland (August 9, 2010): The
National Federation of the Blind (NFB) responded
today to recent attacks on the right of blind
students to have equal access to technologies
used by America's universities and to the
textbooks and course materials offered by
institutions of higher learning.  The NFB and the
United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights
Division, have come under attack in recent days
for reaching settlements with universities
requiring that the universities refrain from
purchasing any e-book technology that is not fully accessible to the blind.

Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National
Federation of the Blind, said: "Blind students
must have access to the same textbooks and course
materials and the same technology to read them as
all other students.  This is not only a matter of
fairness to blind students but a requirement of
federal law.  For this reason, we applaud the
United States Department of Justice, acting at
our request and pursuant to its mandate to
enforce this nation's disability rights laws, for
reaching landmark settlements with colleges and
universities ensuring that e-book technologies
deployed by these institutions will be accessible
to all their students.  With the announcement of
a new accessible Amazon Kindle, the recent
introduction of the Apple iPad, and the promise
of future accessible e-book products­many of
which would not have been made accessible without
our advocacy efforts­colleges and universities
will find it increasingly easy to procure e-book
technology that benefits everyone.  These
settlements benefit not only blind students, who
will now have access to the same books at the
same time and at the same price as their sighted
peers, but also institutions of higher learning,
which will no longer incur the administrative
burden of producing or procuring accessible books
through separate and inferior methods.  To the
extent that inaccessible e-book technology
remains a barrier to the equal education of the
blind, however, the National Federation of the
Blind will continue to fight for the educational
and legal rights of blind students, and we will
not hesitate to call upon the Department of
Justice and other government authorities to
assist us in doing so when necessary."


About the National Federation of the Blind

With more than 50,000 members, the National
Federation of the Blind is the largest and most
influential membership organization of blind
people in the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns =
/>United States.  The NFB improves blind people's
lives through advocacy, education, research,
technology, and programs encouraging independence
and self-confidence.  It is the leading force in
the blindness field today and the voice of the
nation's blind.  In January 2004 the NFB opened
the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan
Institute, the first research and training center
in the United States for the blind led by the blind.

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