E-readers unfair to blind?

Accused of discrimination against the disabled, three universities have agreed to stop testing Kindle e-readers until they’re fully functional for blind students, under a deal with the Justice Department.

Pace University, Case Western Reserve and Reed College are participating in a Kindle pilot. While the Kindle has a text-to-speech function, the menu does not, “so it is impossible for blind students to navigate through different electronic books or within an electronic book,” reports AP.

This is not as silly as it may seem: Blind people can use scanners to “read” printed books.

Amazon is working on an audible menu, and predicts electronic readers will be a “break-through technology” for the blind.

Via Political Correctness Watch.

In a pilot project, 12 Indianapolis schools are replacing textbooks with digital content from Discovery Education.

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  1. “three universities have agreed to stop testing Kindle e-readers until they’re fully functional for blind students”

    This is not true; the testing may continue as previously planned.

    The agreement “will take effect on the date following the last day of the pilot project with Amazon.com, Inc.”


  2. And so the leveling continues…do we ban audio devices because the deaf can not use them? Do we continue to dumb down texts because the lowest quartile can’t understand them?

    The blind also can not use a library catalog without assistance. Do we lock everyone out of the libraries?

    Making the menus accessible to the blind is a non-trivial task. We can’t demand that every device be all things to all people.

  3. If education is merely a game with role players, then the “ruling” levels the playing field fairly.

    If equipment is designed to hurt one group over another, then the equipment is immoral.

    However, if the equipment helps some groups efficiently, then it is generally considered benign. This seems to be the attitude toward most technology. In other words, the “ruling” is wrong-headed.

    Perhaps we should ban the Internet in school. Many cannot afford it at home! Of course, that’s dumb, but Broadband for America seems the moral activity to pursue.

  4. There are other devices developed for blind, low vision, and otherwise reading-impaired folk. They are lot more expensive than the Kindle…but don’t have Kindle’s limitations, either.

    Trying out text-to-voice devices explores two.

    More indepth reviews from Blind Bargains gives an indepth review of the Intel Reader and Intel Reader vs. KNFB Reader Mobile Comparison with Speed Test Results

  5. Another point: shouldn’t Pace University, Case Western Reserve and Reed College be doing head-to-head comparisons of all the technologies currently available? (See Kurzweil 3000, Intel Reader, and the K-NFB mobile reader for three others.)

  6. Liz –

    I believe part of the problem is that textbook companies are very wary of allowing their products onto devices without strong DRM. In terms of platforms, right now it appears to be Kindle or nothing in terms of e-textbooks.


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