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Sunday, June 23, 2024 | Back issues
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Colleges Want Better Kindle

(CN) - Three colleges reached agreements with the Department of Justice not to promote book-reading devices unless they are accessible to students who are blind or have poor vision. The Justice Department announced the deals with Reed College, Case Western Reserve and Pace University on Wednesday.

The Justice Department reached separate agreements under the Americans with Disabilities Act with Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Pace University in New York City and Reed College in Portland, Ore. The agreements involve the handheld Kindle DX.

"The current model of the Kindle DX has the capability to read texts aloud, so that the materials would be accessible to blind individuals, but the device does not include a similar text-to-speech function for the menu and navigational controls," the Department of Justice said in a statement.

"Without access to the menus, students who are blind have no way to know which book they have selected or how to access the Kindle DX Web browser or its other functions. The technological 'know how' to make navigational controls or menu selections accessible is available."

Under the agreements, the schools will not purchase, recommend or promote use of the Kindle DX, or any other dedicated electronic book reader, unless the devices are fully accessible to students who are blind and have low vision.

The schools agree that if they use dedicated electronic book readers, they will ensure that students with vision problems are able to acquire the same materials and information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as sighted students with substantially equivalent ease of use.

These agreements follow a similar, Jan. 11 agreement between the Department of Justice, Arizona State University, the National Federation of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind.

"Advancing technology is systematically changing the way universities approach education, but we must be sure that emerging technologies offer individuals with disabilities the same opportunities as other students," said Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez. "These agreements underscore the importance of full and equal educational opportunities for everyone."

The Department of Justice said a handful of universities participated in a pilot project in cooperation with Amazon.com, the manufacturer and retailer of the Kindle DX, to test the device in a classroom setting. The terms of the agreement with each university become effective at the end of the pilot projects.

Other schools, including Syracuse University and the University of Wisconsin at Madison, also examined the Kindle DX as a teaching device and decided not to use it until it is accessible to the blind.

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