[nfbwatlk] FW: [Nfbnet-members-list] Letter about Inaccessible Kindle from Dr. Maurer

Mike Freeman k7uij at panix.com
Sun Mar 24 14:14:07 UTC 2013

-----Original Message-----
From: Nfbnet-members-list [mailto:nfbnet-members-list-bounces at nfbnet.org] On
Behalf Of Steve Jacobson (by way of David Andrews <dandrews at visi.com>)
Sent: Saturday, March 23, 2013 3:49 PM
To: nfbnet-members-list at nfbnet.org
Subject: [Nfbnet-members-list] Letter about Inaccessible Kindle from Dr.

The following was massaged by Steve Jacobson.  If you are interested at all
in access to electronic books, and electronic book readers, like the Kindle,
it is worth a read.

David Andrews

During the most recent Metro Chapter meeting, (Minneapolis/St. Paul
area,) a very well-documented letter from Dr. Maurer to the National Parent
Teacher Association was discussed.  It outlines the complex problem that
faces us regarding the Kindle's use by schools.  Amazon has said there are
accessible alternatives, but this letter explains why this is really not the
case.  Since many had not seen this letter, I am including a text copy here.
I am also attaching the PDF copy that has been widely circulated as there
are some links in that version to supporting documentation.

Marc Maurer, President
200 East Wells Street
at Jernigan Place
Baltimore, MD 21230
Phone 410 659 9314 Fax 410 685 5653
Sent via first class mail and e-mail

March 11, 2013

Betsy Landers, President
Eric Hargis, Executive Director
National Parent Teacher Association
1250 North Pitt Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
blanders at pta.org
ehargis at pta.org

RE:	Amazons Sponsorship of the National PTAs Family Reading 
Experience Program

Dear Ms. Landers and Mr. Hargis:

It has come to my attention that your organization has selected Amazon as
the exclusive sponsor of your new Family Reading Experience program. While
the aspirations of this program are noble, you should know that the use of
Kindle e-books will seriously compromise the education of children who are
blind or have other print disabilities.  This is so because, unlike other
e-books, Kindle e-books do not afford children with print disabilities the
same reading and learning experience as their fellow students.
As a result, local PTAs that accept donations of Kindle devices or encourage
the use of Kindle e-books in their schools will, as detailed in this letter,
be helping to put those schools in violation of federal law.

In todays world, equal opportunity requires equal access to information.
Unlike print, digital information is not inherently visual; it can be made
available visually, aurally, and tactilely all at the same time and from the
same original digital source.

Thus, digital information can be the great equalizer, offering mainstream
access to all, without regard to whether the reader has a sensory
disability.  For decades, the blind have used a variety of technologies to
make e-books accessible. To read electronic texts, blind students use either
text-to-speech software that vocalizes the words, letters, and characters on
a page or a refreshable Braille display that renders the words, letters, and
characters into Braille. Fortunately, a number of technology developers and
content providers have designed their products and services to put sighted
and blind users on an equal footing. With the advent of commercial e-books,
some developers, including Apple iBooks and Blio books, have made their
e-books and reading applications accessible, so that everyoneincluding
blind students and others with print disabilitiescan read and use them

Unfortunately, Amazon is not such a company. It has made a conscious
decision to exclude the blind from reading and studying with its Kindle
e-books. Among other barriers, blind students using Kindle e-books cannot
(1) read character by character and thus learn to spell, punctuate and
distinguish homophones; (2) navigate usefully through the text of a Kindle
e-book to keep up with the rest of the class; (3) interact with the Kindle
e-books content through the dictionary, highlighting, search, or
note-taking features; or (4) access any content in Braille through their
refreshable Braille displays.  In sum, blind students attempting to use
Kindle e-books are effectively precluded from developing phonological
awareness, phonics, fluency, comprehension, or vocabulary, which are the
stated goals of your Family Reading Experience program.

To better illustrate the barriers Kindle e-books create, I have attached a
chart to this letter showing the various functions that Kindle e-books offer
sighted students and deny blind students. The chart reflects the best access
Amazon offers, using a Kindle Keyboard (also called Kindle 3G) or using the
Kindle for PC with Accessibility Plugin to read Kindle e-books. All other
devices and platforms for reading Kindles are completely inaccessible. By
way of comparison, the attached chart also shows other reading platforms,
such as iBooks, that offer blind students all of the functions that Amazon
reserves for the sighted. For your convenience, we have also tied those
features to the Common Core State Standards to demonstrate specifically how
the access barriers of Kindle e-books inhibit blind studentseducational
opportunities.  In short, although blind readers do have some rudimentary
access to Kindle e-bookswhen using platforms that permit that rudimentary
access, it is not nearly enough [access] to use the books for anything but
the most casual reading,much less the intense, challenging reading that
characterizes the academic environment.

Hence, the implementation of Kindle e-books proposed by the Family Reading
Experience program will relegate students with print disabilities to second
class status and unnecessarily exclude them from benefiting from the
programs goals and objectives.
Moreover, the limitations of Kindle e-books will inhibit print-disabled
children from developing those grade-appropriate reading skills that are set
forth by the Common Core State Standards and that are vigorously advocated
for by your organization.

    	Not only does the use of Kindle e-books in the public school
classroom inhibit the educational development of print-disabled students, it
is also a violation of federal law. This is so because use of Kindle e-books
discriminates against students with print disabilities by denying them equal
access to educational programs. 
Under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the
Rehabilitation Act, public schools must not deny students with disabilities
the benefits of their programs and activities. Therefore, public schools
that choose to use Kindle e-books will be violating federal law, and PTA
organizations that encourage the use of Kindle e-books in their local
schools will be assisting those schools in that violation.

In 2009 and 2010, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education resolved
complaints against five post-secondary schools that used the inaccessible
Kindle DX e-reader device in their classrooms with agreements that required
these schools not to purchase any e- reader device for their classrooms or
require use of any device unless or until such electronic book reader is
fully accessible to individuals with visual impairments . . . .  An
electronic book reader is only fully accessible if all uses of the device
that are available to individuals without disabilities are available to
individuals with visual impairments in a manner which ensures that its use
in the university setting is equally as effective for individuals with
visual impairments as it is for others.  In 2010, the Departments of
Justice and Education jointly issued a letter to the post-secondary
educational community, explaining that when it comes to e-book readers and
e-book content, equal access is 
the law.   In 2011, the Department of Education again made
clear that elementary and secondary schools likewise must refrain from using
technology that will deny students with disabilities equal access.

If we can further assist you in understanding which e-books and e-book
platforms are accessible and compliant with federal and state law, or
provide further information about the deficiencies of Kindle e-books, please
do not hesitate to contact us. The National Federation of the Blind, whose
50,000 members comprise not only blind people of all ages and backgrounds
but also parents of blind children and others who support equal opportunity
for blind Americans, has as its ultimate goal the complete integration of
the blind into society on an equal basis with our sighted peers. 
We are fortunate to live in an age in which that ideal has been written into

Amazons deliberate choice to scorn that ideal and ignore the needs of blind
readers does not give public schools a free pass to discriminate on the
basis of disability by purchasing and using Kindle e-books in their
classrooms. Nor should your organization be party to such discrimination.
Your Position Statements emphasize the special needs of underserved
populations including children with disabilities,  and you have assumed the
role of being
a powerful voice for all children.   We look forward to your 
cooperation in this matter and are confident you will raise your powerful
voice in support of the rights of our nations blind and print-disabled


Marc Maurer, President


cc:  David Zapolsky, Esq., General Counsel, Amazon, Inc.

-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: mm letter to national pta 3-11-
Type: application/pdf
Size: 158080 bytes
Desc: not available
URL: <http://nfbnet.org/pipermail/nfbwatlk_nfbnet.org/attachments/20130324/2cfbd7ce/attachment.pdf>
-------------- next part --------------
An embedded and charset-unspecified text was scrubbed...
Name: Untitled attachment 00171.txt
URL: <http://nfbnet.org/pipermail/nfbwatlk_nfbnet.org/attachments/20130324/2cfbd7ce/attachment.txt>

More information about the NFBWATlk mailing list