Blind Advocates Decry ASU’s Use of Kindle DX

     PHOENIX (CN) – Arizona State University discriminates against blind students by providing textbooks through Amazon’s Kindle DX electronic reading device, two advocacy groups for the blind claim in Federal Court. The technology is “gratuitously inaccessible to its blind students,” the groups say, because the Kindle’s operating menus have no audio option.

     The National Federation of the Blind, the American Council of the Blind and ASU student Darrell Shandrow say blind students need audio to know what book they selected, “what the configuring settings are or how to change them, or how to navigate the on-screen menu.”
     In May, Amazon announced that six universities would provide Kindles to their students in the fall of 2009 as part of an e-textbook pilot program. Pace University, Case Western Reserve University, Princeton University, Reed College and the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business have purportedly agreed to participate.
     The plaintiffs say this “threatens to set an example of inaccessibility for other institutions to follow.”
     Because of the discriminatory trial program, the plaintiffs say, blind students will be unable “to download books almost instantly, to take notes on the Kindle, to look up works on the Kindle and to carry all of their textbooks – at least for the participating classes – in one small device.”
     Instead, they must resort to other methods, such as scanning textbooks at ASU’s Disability Resource Center or getting audio versions of the book, the lawsuit claims.
     The Reading Rights Coalition, an organization that represents the plaintiffs and other organizations for the blind, allegedly wrote to ASU President Michael Crow “to explain why adoption of the Kindle DX without assuring accessibility for blind and other low-vision students was a violation of the Rehabilitation Act and the ADA,” but the university refused to stop the program.
     The plaintiffs demand a declaration that ASU is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act, along with an injunction ordering the university to halt the program.
     The Arizona Board of Regents is also named as a defendant.
     They are represented by Andrew S. Friedman and Guy A. Hansen of Bonnett, Fairbourn, Friedman & Balint, and Daniel F. Goldstein and Mehgan Sidhu of Brown, Goldstein & Levy of Baltimore.

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