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Old 06-26-2009, 03:22 PM   #1
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National Federation of the Blind sues over Kindle TTS

According to a note on Teleread, the NFB is suing Arizona State University over its plans to use Kindle DXs, saying that Amazon's TTS service is wholly unusable by the blind. I read the NFB's position and wondered what Amazon's ultimate purpose for TTS is.
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Old 06-26-2009, 03:39 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by rhadin View Post
According to a note on Teleread, the NFB is suing Arizona State University over its plans to use Kindle DXs, saying that Amazon's TTS service is wholly unusable by the blind. I read the NFB's position and wondered what Amazon's ultimate purpose for TTS is.
Dear Rhadin:

Yes, I am interested also. Seems to me that TTS would be a blessing for the blind. Our Pocket PRO has TTS and I think that helps the elderly and the blind.

Yes, I agree that someone would have to be able to see to bring up a book and then enable the TTS. I wonder if they just want a one-button interface for the blind or something?

On the surface, TTS should be lauded by the blind.
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Old 06-26-2009, 03:44 PM   #3
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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.
So, it's not wholy unusable, but because you can't find the book and activate the TTS, it becomes unusable...

Oh, and I don't think you need a "one-click-does-all" button, but it would already help greatly if the menu items were spoken aloud too.
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Old 06-26-2009, 04:13 PM   #4
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So, it's not wholy unusable, but because you can't find the book and activate the TTS, it becomes unusable...

Oh, and I don't think you need a "one-click-does-all" button, but it would already help greatly if the menu items were spoken aloud too.
That is really the crux of the problem. Reading a book aloud only works if you can find the book you want to read. Menu's need to be TTS, the library display screen needs to be TTS. There needs to be a method to reread the page in case you forget one. The buttons need to be TTS. The blind need a bit more that just TTS on the pages of a book. Can you operate the audio player if you are blind? And many of the blind are not totally blind so those folks would benefit from way larger fonts on the library screen and the book reading and the menus.

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Old 06-26-2009, 04:45 PM   #5
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@Robertb. No doubt this is a great feature for the blind, but also great for the public in general and that fact should not be excluded. This feature can help children with reading disabilities as well as those children who just are behind in reading. Let us not make TTS a one point argument there are many great reasons to support TTS.

I applaud your company for supporting TTS. While most folks here don't seem too interested in TTS this feature will soon become a must have feature as ebook readers become mainstream.

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Old 06-26-2009, 04:49 PM   #6
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That is really the crux of the problem. Reading a book aloud only works if you can find the book you want to read. Menu's need to be TTS...
Well ther are other solutions like Verizon voice command installed on most of there cell phones. Simply state "Read Dante's Inferno". Etc...
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Old 06-26-2009, 05:24 PM   #7
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@Robertb. No doubt this is a great feature for the blind, but also great for the public in general and that fact should not be excluded. This feature can help children with reading disabilities as well as those children who just are behind in reading. Let us not make TTS a one point argument there are many great reasons to support TTS.

I applaud your company for supporting TTS. While most folks here don't seem too interested in TTS this feature will soon become a must have feature as ebook readers become mainstream.

=X=
Dear ALL:

This is really a good thread. Dale DePriest brings up a great point: putting the menu and other selections made into TTS.

I am going to talk this up at Jinke and try to get this done. I am very, very in tune with the blind and those with bad vision. Our owner has vision problems and Astak is sensitive to problems like this.

I also think that TTS has a long way to go. There are still pauses and gaps and vert little inflection in the machine voice. It is decent and useful... but TTS is in its infancy and can get a lot better.

I used to work with the GPS community. Early GPS units also had problems with speech inflection and pattern and it improved with time. So... Dale's points, as always, are really great. Let me see what Astak can do to bring about a solution. Knowing Dale, as I do, he likely has the solution all worked out anyway.
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Old 06-26-2009, 05:56 PM   #8
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While I have empathy for the blind student(s) who may be impacted by this program, and I agree they could benefit from additional TTS features, and I hope Amazon can change the Kindle to work well for the blind:

I'm not really sure that a lawsuit that blocks the entire program is a) beneficial, b) politically helpful or c) necessary.

It seems to me that if the blind student(s) receive their course materials in a manner they can use (braille, audio) in a timely fashion, they will not be at a disadvantage. Lawsuits and allegations of discriminatory practices just antagonize the school, the vendor and their fellow students. I'd be pretty ticked off if a pilot program got held hostage to a political agenda, even if it's justified.

Also, if the school or textbook providers can't provide a braille, audio or other compatible resource in a timely fashion, I don't see how that is a flaw of an e-book reader.
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Old 06-26-2009, 06:51 PM   #9
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It seems to me that if the blind student(s) receive their course materials in a manner they can use (braille, audio) in a timely fashion, they will not be at a disadvantage.
If the school is being given a new technology for students, and that technology is not available for blind students, they are at a disadvantage.

The law allows businesses to not market to the blind; it doesn't allow for schools that receive federal funding to discriminate against blind students by making some course materials (ebook readers, here) only available or useful to sighted students.

I'm not sure a lawsuit is the answer, either. But I know that without lawsuits, an awful lot of institutions are willing to say "eh, it's just too much trouble to make things accessible to people with disabilities."
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Old 06-26-2009, 11:53 PM   #10
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The law allows businesses to not market to the blind; it doesn't allow for schools that receive federal funding to discriminate against blind students by making some course materials (ebook readers, here) only available or useful to sighted students.
OK, but if the course materials are made available to the blind student(s) -- again, in braille, an audio format or a file accessible with a PC -- then it stands to reason that there is no discrimination.

I.e. unless students will be graded on their ability to manipulate an e-book reader, the "course materials" is not the e-book reader itself but the content. That would have to be provided to a blind student in a timely fashion anyway.

Plus, it's not like TTS is a brand new technology that Amazon invented from whole cloth. Apple has included a "speech" function that could read text aloud since the 1990's.
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Old 06-27-2009, 12:03 AM   #11
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OK, but if the course materials are made available to the blind student(s) -- again, in braille, an audio format or a file accessible with a PC -- then it stands to reason that there is no discrimination.
It's possible that argument will hold up--IF those course materials are available to blind students.

However, it's likely that the universities are being given a case of Kindles full of textbooks to distribute to students, and there is no set of audio/braille format textbooks being offered to blind students at the same time. This is a trial run, a marketing test.... I suspect nobody considered that "marketing experiments" being run in an institution that receives government funding is held to much stricter standards than one being run on a random at-large populace.

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Plus, it's not like TTS is a brand new technology that Amazon invented from whole cloth. Apple has included a "speech" function that could read text aloud since the 1990's.
It's not that it's new, but that it's being provided to students... but only to sighted students. This is no more legal than offering running shoes, but only to male students. (Perhaps by not offering sizes smaller than men's 10.) It might be legally equivalent to offering promotional backpacks, but only to white students.

It'll certainly be worth watching; accessibility laws don't get a lot of attention beyond businesses grumbling about adding ramps & handrails.
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Old 06-27-2009, 04:40 AM   #12
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I want everything possible for anyone with a disability that can help them made available, however others should not be forced to wait for things that could help them because they are not available yet for the blind.

What if the new book had some great and useful images and tables in it? that can not currently be replicated in Braille? are the students not allowed to get those new books?

things can be taken a little too far and a lawsuit is in this case toofar.
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Old 06-27-2009, 01:25 PM   #13
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@Robertb. No doubt this is a great feature for the blind, but also great for the public in general and that fact should not be excluded. This feature can help children with reading disabilities as well as those children who just are behind in reading. Let us not make TTS a one point argument there are many great reasons to support TTS.

I applaud your company for supporting TTS. While most folks here don't seem too interested in TTS this feature will soon become a must have feature as ebook readers become mainstream.

=X=
TTS is also great for people reading in a language that is not their mother tongue. It is also nice when you have to leave your reading and drive somewhere. Instead of stopping where you are, you can take your book with you and listen while you drive. (Keeps you from being late in picking up your kids from school.)

It can even help pre-schoolers if the books are developed although supporting AAX (audible) would be likely more useful in this case.
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Old 06-27-2009, 01:27 PM   #14
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Well ther are other solutions like Verizon voice command installed on most of there cell phones. Simply state "Read Dante's Inferno". Etc...
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True but this requires more hardware such as a microphone and is a more expensive solution. You are getting into the realm of a custom device, which is likely already available, at a premium price.

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Old 06-27-2009, 02:03 PM   #15
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