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Old 01-13-2010, 10:58 PM   #1
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Kindle-ADA lawsuits settled

Four lawsuits were settled in the past few days. Three involved the US Justice Dept and universities which had started Kindle DX pilot programs; one lawsuit was brought by the National Federation for the Blind against Arizona State University.

Quote:
WASHINGTON – The Justice Department today announced separate agreements under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Pace University in New York City and Reed College in Portland, Ore., regarding the use in a classroom setting of the electronic book reader, the Kindle DX, a hand-held technological device that simulates the experience of reading a book.
from:
http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2010/J...0-crt-030.html
Quote:
Phoenix, Arizona (January 11, 2010): The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the American Council of the Blind (ACB), and Arizona State University (ASU), today announced a settlement agreement resolving litigation filed by NFB and ACB against the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) and ASU. The lawsuit arose from the university's participation in a pilot program using the Kindle DX, a dedicated device for reading electronic books, or e-books, developed by Amazon.com, Inc. The NFB and ACB alleged that the Kindle DX was inaccessible to blind students and thus violated federal law. ABOR and ASU denied and continue to deny any violations of the law.
from:
http://www.nfb.org/nfb/NewsBot.asp?MODE=VIEW&ID=527

**********

Before you say of course this was the right decision, allow me to demonstrate the absurdity of the lawsuits. The basis for the suits was that the Kindle DX was not accessible to the blind. Well, neither are the paper textbooks that the Kindle DX was replacing. Obviously we should stop using them as well.

I could list a bunch of examples, but I won't. The point I'm trying to make is that schools currently use lots of technology that is inaccessible to the blind. They are required by federal law to meet the needs of the disabled, which is accomplished to varying degrees. There is no reason that the accommodations provided for paper textbooks could not be duplicated for digital textbooks.

FYI: The Americans with Disabilities Act is a US law that requires equal access be given to the disabled.

Last edited by Nate the great; 01-13-2010 at 11:01 PM.
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Old 01-13-2010, 11:45 PM   #2
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I believe they were griping about no text-to-speech function on the DX. That's what audio books are for, which the Library of Congress provides for eligible blind people who ask for them.
But what are the circumstances behind the Universities' implementation of this program? Are they requiring of students or is it voluntary? If required, the university is under obligation to make reasonable accommodations for those students who need it. The term blind, as defined by law, is misleading & covers a wide range of visual impairments from total blindness to low vision with a visual acuity of 20/200 or greater. I personally fall somewhere in the middle & being an avid reader & ereader owner (ever-faithful to my Sony), I can say that ebook readers & reasonable accommodation should be natural allies. The ability to increase text size to various proportions has been a life-saver for many of us. & I think the Kindle actually has text sizes greater than those provided by the Sony. So, in that regard, they have no right to bitch any more than they can at regular dead tree publishers, who now provide large print & audio books.
I think the real reason the ACB & other groups are pissed is because they are losing money they would normally obtain from visually impaired people who buy their $5,000 machines that blow letters up to Poster size & take up a small room, as well as other very expensive adaptive equipment geared towards making reading accessible to the blind. What buy a big, clunky machine for grand when I can but a hand-held device for a couple hundred? Blind people are not rich & will obviously choose the latter.
Anyway, I am an adamant supporter of the ADA & groups that fight for it but I think it's sometimes taken to extremes & in this case it's downright ridiculous. We have many other resources at our disposal if people would just use them.
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Old 01-14-2010, 01:20 AM   #3
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This is why people hate "liberals".
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Old 01-14-2010, 01:29 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by markbot View Post
This is why people hate "liberals".
Really? You had better re-READ and possibly comprehend(?) the post above yours. He says that the ACB might be p****d because the blind might not be buying $5K machines. Sounds like a Republican greed thing vs a "liberal" thing.

But you've already shown your bias, no need to confuse you with facts.
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Old 01-14-2010, 03:03 AM   #5
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this is why i hate policitians

generic "one size fits all" laws never do fit all on either side of the political fence. a little common sense on either side would be nice.

you could just as well say that cars should be illegal because blind people can't drive them, music should be illegal because the deaf cannot hear it, computer keyboards should be illegal because those without fingers/hands or with coordination issues cannot type on them, and college should be illegal because not everyone can get in.

not everything needs to be for everybody - jeez!
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Old 01-14-2010, 03:56 AM   #6
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I may be mistaken but I think the pertinent point is that the Universities in question were giving the kindles to the students. If that is the case then they should be required to give something comparable to blind students. Otherwise they are giving a significant advantage to one group of students over another.

I doubt very much the ruling, or the case, had anything to do with the legality of using the kindle itself.

Cheers,
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Old 01-14-2010, 06:54 AM   #7
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I agree with PKFFW that the main issue was the "giving" of the Kindle's to students, but blind students not having the same access. What I don't understand is why they could not continue with the Kindle "give away" and instead give visually impared students a device that would give them the access as well. But often these advocacy groups seem to just want to punish everyone rather than truly helping the group they say they represent.....
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Old 01-14-2010, 08:51 AM   #8
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So *no* students get free DXs...
Let's see, now:
Amazon got whatever publicity benefit they were going to get during the DX launch; they learned what they needed to learn about the higher-ed market, and they save a bit of cash.
And nobody will ever again dare *give* an ebook reader to students even as a test.
But the lawyers got paid nicely.
All is well.
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Old 01-14-2010, 09:56 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Phantom-Rose View Post
But what are the circumstances behind the Universities' implementation of this program? Are they requiring of students or is it voluntary?
The problem was that sighted students were theoretically able to receive study materials, immediately, that the blind student may not be able to access. E.g. the prof sends out a couple of PDF's, or some texts on the ebook that the blind student can't navigate or won't be able to access in a timely fashion.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Phantom-Rose
I personally fall somewhere in the middle & being an avid reader & ereader owner (ever-faithful to my Sony), I can say that ebook readers & reasonable accommodation should be natural allies.
Yes, they should. To meet that goal, Amazon is apparently working on firmware that allows TTS in menus, a new larger font size, and other accessibility features. To their credit, Amazon seems to be the only ebook reader company I know of that is directly working on this; B&N for example has explicitly stated they are not interested in TTS. (Not sure how tablets will fit in though.) However, even increasing font sizes isn't enough for some individuals, as I'm sure you must realize.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Phantom-Rose
I think the real reason the ACB & other groups are pissed is because they are losing money...
Incorrect. The parties to the lawsuit have clearly indicated that their goal is to push Amazon to increase the TTS capabilities of the devices. I expect that once the new firmware is out, the pilot programs can resume without incident.

I concur that a lawsuit wasn't the best way to proceed, but hopefully with the suits ended, once the TTS abilities are increased there won't be a problem.
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Old 01-14-2010, 11:11 AM   #10
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I am of two minds on this issue. Initially I felt pretty much like Phantom-Rose, and my general sentiments still lean in this direction. If universities used traditional textbooks then they would need to accomodate the blind with brail versions or large text versions of the textbooks. I don't see why using electronic versions of textbooks change anything. Universities can accommodate the blind the same way they do now. For the severly blind, they can provide them with brail versions of the textbooks. For the partially sighted, the Kindle probably works better than other options. Initially, the ACB's position kind of ticked me off.

I'm now starting to think the ACB might have had a point. It doesn't require a big change to the Kindle to make it just as useful for the blind as it is for sighted students. The only change they really needed to make was add TTS to their menu system. The ACB's lawsuits are probably going to make that happen.

I like the fact that the blind will get a device that better accomodates their needs, but something about the way the ACB went about getting this "concession" rubs me the wrong way. Particularly since the concession is that the universities won't use any ereaders at all (even if they are a boon to the partially sighted) until the ereaders better accomodate all of the blind.

Last edited by Daithi; 01-14-2010 at 11:14 AM.
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Old 01-14-2010, 11:11 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kali Yuga View Post
The problem was that sighted students were theoretically able to receive study materials, immediately, that the blind student may not be able to access. E.g. the prof sends out a couple of PDF's, or some texts on the ebook that the blind student can't navigate or won't be able to access in a timely fashion.
But let's face it - a blind student is going to need "sighted" assistance in order to study at university for all sorts of different reasons. That hardly seems like a very valid reason to deny Kindles to all the sighted students. It seems a bit childish - "if I can't use it, then I don't want anybody else to be able to, either".
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Old 01-14-2010, 12:18 PM   #12
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Really? You had better re-READ and possibly comprehend(?) the post above yours. He says that the ACB might be p****d because the blind might not be buying $5K machines. Sounds like a Republican greed thing vs a "liberal" thing.

But you've already shown your bias, no need to confuse you with facts.
...I mean the fact that this absurd case ever required litigation to begin with.

This is the tyranny of the minority. Assisting the disabled should be charity not a legal requirement.
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Old 01-14-2010, 12:34 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kali Yuga View Post
The problem was that sighted students were theoretically able to receive study materials, immediately, that the blind student may not be able to access. E.g. the prof sends out a couple of PDF's, or some texts on the ebook that the blind student can't navigate or won't be able to access in a timely fashion.
But wouldn't the professors already have been making study materials available to those students in a format they could access? as stated above if they couldn't use the paper form they must already have had another way to get the material. how does that change with the DX program?
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Old 01-14-2010, 01:55 PM   #14
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I don't know what accommodations universities are required to enact. I believe you could make the case that emailing the student course materials in a manner that provides some sort of TTS capability (e.g. to a computer that can read PDF's and other documents aloud).

But to me, it's pretty clear that the purpose was to force Amazon to improve the TTS capabilities of the device. It may also be a warning shot to universities not to implement ebook programs that don't accommodate the disabled.

Again, I don't think the lawsuit was the best way to handle this. It is possible it prodded Amazon to work on the firmware a little faster, but IMO generated some ill will as well.
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Old 01-14-2010, 01:59 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Daithi View Post
I am of two minds on this issue. Initially I felt pretty much like Phantom-Rose, and my general sentiments still lean in this direction. If universities used traditional textbooks then they would need to accomodate the blind with brail versions or large text versions of the textbooks. I don't see why using electronic versions of textbooks change anything. Universities can accommodate the blind the same way they do now. For the severly blind, they can provide them with brail versions of the textbooks. For the partially sighted, the Kindle probably works better than other options. Initially, the ACB's position kind of ticked me off.

I'm now starting to think the ACB might have had a point. It doesn't require a big change to the Kindle to make it just as useful for the blind as it is for sighted students. The only change they really needed to make was add TTS to their menu system. The ACB's lawsuits are probably going to make that happen.

I like the fact that the blind will get a device that better accomodates their needs, but something about the way the ACB went about getting this "concession" rubs me the wrong way. Particularly since the concession is that the universities won't use any ereaders at all (even if they are a boon to the partially sighted) until the ereaders better accomodate all of the blind.


The sad thing is they pulled the trial at some schools till even though Amazon has a sheduled release that addresses all of thier concerns, so everyone has to suffer instead of just allowing it to continue and then roll it out to sight impaired students when the enhancements are rolled out
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