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Old 08-06-2013, 07:22 PM   #1
Alexander Turcic
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Amazon, Kobo and Sony request e-readers be exempt from accessibility laws

The title is a pretty innocuous phrasing of a great big bombshell. A coalition of e-reader manufacturers consisting of Amazon, Kobo and Sony, filed a petition requesting the FCC waive its rules requiring e-readers to be accessible by people with disabilities.

According to the Coalition petition (PDF):

Quote:
The public interest would be served by granting this petition because the theoretical ACS ability of ereaders is irrelevant to how the overwhelming majority of users actually use the devices. [...]

Granting the petition is in the public interest because rendering ACS accessible on e-readers would require fundamentally altering the devices to be more like general-purpose tablets in cost, form factor, weight, user interface, and reduced battery life, and yet the necessary changes, if they were made, would not yield a meaningful benefit to individuals with disabilities.
According to the letter (PDF) supplementing the petition, e-readers are a distinctive class designed primarily for reading, because they all share the following characteristics (that make them different from, let's say, tablets):
  • they have no LCD screen;
  • they have no camera;
  • they are not offered or shipped to consumers with built-in email, IM, VoIP or other similar ACS client applications and the device manufacturer does not develop ACS applications for them;
  • they are marketed to consumers as reading devices and promotional material about them does not tout the capability to access ACS.

Anybody care to bite?

Last edited by Alexander Turcic; 08-06-2013 at 07:35 PM.
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Old 08-06-2013, 07:43 PM   #2
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"the theoretical ACS ability of ereaders is irrelevant to how the overwhelming majority of users actually use the devices" I hope the FCC is smart enough to see thru their scam. The overwhelming majority of people don't have disabilities-so how the overwhelming majority of users actually use things is irrelevant to those things accommodations for people with disabilities.

They might win on the lack of need for 'strict' ereaders to access ACS, or they might not since I'm not sure what 'ACS' is. (I looked up the acronym. It stands for Advanced Communications Services which tells me almost nothing about what it is.) But their main argument is a bunch of hogwash. Or maybe whitewash.
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Old 08-06-2013, 07:46 PM   #3
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I totally agree with the coalition. If people want accessibility, they can get tablets or other specialty devices. Leave ereaders alone.
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Old 08-06-2013, 07:48 PM   #4
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This thread is headed for the political board
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Old 08-06-2013, 07:55 PM   #5
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I agree about the e-ink devices and even the phone apps. But I do wish that the PC and Mac apps would be able to interface with commercial speech recognition software like Dragon Naturally Speaking or Windows Speech Recognition to allow verbal commands to select, open and read the books in Kindle-PC or Kindle-Mac.
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Old 08-06-2013, 07:56 PM   #6
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I suspect it's a way to get them into schools without requiring accessibility features for those students whose disabilities wouldn't work with them as-is. (Also, a way to not have to carry voice options for the limited browser features. But AFAIK, they're not _required_ to carry that now; they'd just need it for certain kinds of gov't or nonprofit purposes... like assigning them to schools.)
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Old 08-06-2013, 08:02 PM   #7
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I found this, which seems relevant:

http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/47/617

Apparently this requirement is somewhat old. Also, notice that it includes software, which I find interesting.

The relevant exemption, which appears to apply to ereaders is:

(B) is designed for multiple purposes, but is designed primarily for purposes other than using advanced communications services.

The primary purpose of ereaders does not seem to fall under the definition of ACS, so I suspect that this will be an open and shut decision and an exemption will be granted.
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Old 08-06-2013, 08:05 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alexander Turcic View Post
According to the letter (PDF) supplementing the petition, e-readers are a distinctive class ...
Are they now? Interesting.
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Old 08-06-2013, 08:10 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Elfwreck View Post
I suspect it's a way to get them into schools without requiring accessibility features for those students whose disabilities wouldn't work with them as-is. (Also, a way to not have to carry voice options for the limited browser features. But AFAIK, they're not _required_ to carry that now; they'd just need it for certain kinds of gov't or nonprofit purposes... like assigning them to schools.)
Public libraries are a target for lending eink ereaders:
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Old 08-06-2013, 08:12 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by twowheels View Post
http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/47/617

(B) is designed for multiple purposes, but is designed primarily for purposes other than using advanced communications services.

The primary purpose of ereaders does not seem to fall under the definition of ACS, so I suspect that this will be an open and shut decision and an exemption will be granted.
That depends on whether you think "shop in the ebook store" counts as ACS. While my e-ink readers until very recently have had no ACS, they also haven't needed any exemptions... the Sony PRS-505 has no email function. My Kobo mini theoretically accesses the web (I haven't tried it); it should be held to the same standards as other devices.

Since, so far, there's been no lawsuit that I know of demanding that all e-ink readers be fully accessible, this petition must have a purpose beyond compliance--and I suspect it's "allow us to get Kindles etc in schools before the iPad takes over."
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Old 08-06-2013, 08:48 PM   #11
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eInk Readers are primarily (and overwhelmingly) used as substitutes for printed books.
Any other use is low enough to be statistically insignificant.
Whether that is enough to gain them the exemption is a toss-up.
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Old 08-06-2013, 09:27 PM   #12
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http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7520931307
Quote:
These devices often include browsers, but the browser is incidental to, and designed to enable or enhance, the primary purpose of the device -- accessing text-based digital works.
Perhaps this explains why Amazon absurdly calls their eInk browser (and, when provided, music-playing feature), experimental. Maybe the lawyers said that if they called it experimental, they could more easily claim, in court, that something else was the primary purpose of the device.

The primary purpose of the device is up to the user, not the manufacturer.

P.S. Am I part of the experiment? If so, what institutional review board approved it? If none, can I sue?

Last edited by SteveEisenberg; 08-06-2013 at 10:11 PM.
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Old 08-06-2013, 10:38 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by SteveEisenberg View Post


Perhaps this explains why Amazon absurdly calls their eInk browser (and, when provided, music-playing feature), experimental. Maybe the lawyers said that if they called it experimental, they could more easily claim, in court, that something else was the primary purpose of the device.
Can I tell the HighWay cop I was experimentally speeding, not really doing it?
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Old 08-06-2013, 10:52 PM   #14
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There's a request for comments:
Comments Due: September 3, 2013
Reply Comments Due: September 13, 2013

Quote:
The Coalition of E-Reader Manufacturers (the Coalition), pursuant to section 716(h)(1) of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended (the Act), 47 U.S.C. § 617(h)(1), and sections 1.3 and 14.5 of the Commission’s rules, 47 C.F.R. §§ 1.3 and 14.5, has filed a petition for a waiver of the Commission’s rules requiring equipment used for advanced communications services (ACS) to be accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. The Coalition seeks a waiver for a single class of equipment: e-readers. The Coalition’s petition states that, although e-readers are equipment that consumers can use for ACS, they are designed primarily for reading and therefore qualify for a waiver from the Commission’s ACS rules.

Comments and oppositions are due within 30 days from the date of this Public Notice. Reply comments are due within 10 days after the time for filing comments and oppositions has expired.
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Old 08-06-2013, 10:55 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by SteveEisenberg View Post
Perhaps this explains why Amazon absurdly calls their eInk browser (and, when provided, music-playing feature), experimental. Maybe the lawyers said that if they called it experimental, they could more easily claim, in court, that something else was the primary purpose of the device.
Or maybe it's because it's not a PRIMARY DESIGNED function that they are selling the device based on, but a bonus that they don't want to devote development or support $ to (because they wouldn't likely recoup them), so it's "experimental" so they don't have to put more than limited $ toward it. I doubt they were thinking about this way back when.

Not sure where I come down on the original topic. I'm suspicious of what the companies might be trying to get away with, but it seems there are lots of better options (i.e. tablets) which is what an e-reader would have to become to meet some of the requirements that seem to be indicated in this thread. What benefit is that to society as a whole? No easy answers.
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