back to article Universities avoid Kindle over accessibility barriers

Three US universities have agreed not to use Amazon's e-book reader the Kindle until it is easily usable by blind people. A fourth settled a complaint from blind people's advocacy groups by saying that it will strive to use accessible devices in future. Though the Kindle DX reader can read out text, making it potentially …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Litigious society

    So what next? Sue universities because reading books aren't accessible to blind people?

    Generally books aren't combined text / braile which seems to be what is being expected of the kindle.


    1. TrinityX

      re: Litigious society

      "So what next? Sue universities because reading books aren't accessible to blind people?"

      Er, yes? The law in the UK already allows this, and the copyright laws allow blind and sight-impaired people to make, or have made for them, copies of books in alternative formats they can access with screen readers. Universities are legally required to make all their teaching resources available to all their students (or to have at least made reasonable attempts to have done so), and if that means obtaining audio copies, then so be it.

      I can only boggle at the fact that the Kindle wasn't created with such users in mind from the start - blind and sight-impaired users are such an obvious target market for any device that makes the printed word accessible electronically!

      1. Hermes Conran

        But shirley,

        The blind still have the option of getting the material in brail format. The addition of another format for the sighted does not reduce the options available to to the blind. All this suit does is prevent the adoption of an additional format that some might have found convienient.

        I'm off to the fox and I'm buying...

      2. Bassey

        Re: Trinity

        But that isn't the point here. The material IS available in any format you want. The argument was that a device for accessing some limited learning material in a particular format wasn't suitable. That material was STILL available to blind people - just not through THIS device.

        The earlier - entirely valid - point was "what is the difference between a kindle DEVICE and a book?". If you separate the physical book from its content the two are identical. So why not sue because books aren't accessible?

    2. Cameron Colley

      I was about to say the same thing.

      Surely the Americans With Disabilities people should be suing every university in the US fro using non-accessible paper-and-ink based books?

    3. JaitcH
      Thumb Down

      Blind people equality

      Whilst I realise many countries are way behind when it comes to assisting those unfortunate physically disabled people Canada and the U.S. are way ahead.

      It is simply not a matter of being a "Litigious society" rather it is a matter of complying with the law.

      Simply because you are fortunate enough to seemingly have most of your faculties does not excuse Amazon, in it's rush to be first, to omit features that would increase it's reader functions and potentially increase it's sales.

  2. Michael Fremlins

    Americans are so parochial

    Why do they have an "Americans with Disabilities Act"? Why not just a Disabilities Act? Or is it that Americans really just don't care about anything beyond its borders? Or do non-Americans with disabilities within its borders no count?

    1. Swarthy Silver badge


      There are a couple of reasons for the naming of the ADA. Not least, is that us 'merkins love our TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) two-letter ones just don't cut it. ETLAs (Extended Three Letter Acronyms - AKA 4-letter) can, but they are too wordy.

      Additionally, a law passed in the US does not, and legally cannot apply outside of the US ( I said legally, I guess they can illegally.. but that's a rant for a different time).

  3. Charles 9 Silver badge

    @Michael Fremlins

    It's not a matter of parochialism but jurisdiction. American law really only applies within American borders unless enforced with a ratified international treaty, which this Act does not carry unless you can show otherwise. Last I checked, though, each country has its own standards for disabilities and accessibility.

    1. Chris Fox

      No non-American's in America?

      I think the concern with the name of the act is that it suggests that it only applies to those with American nationality (in the US or elsewhere), not that it only applies within US borders. The name suggests that it does not apply to non-US citizens, including overseas students studying at US universities. It seems odd for legislation on discrimination to discriminate in this way.

  4. DavCrav


    This was a trial. Wasn't the fact that it wasn't suitable for blind people one of the things that would have come out of the trial? No need for lawsuits...

    Better yet, let's not try anything new, as we might get sued.

  5. Titus Aduxass

    The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

    On the face of it, it does seem a major up-f**k of Amazon's not to have included audio menus from the start. Especially given the device already has an audio capability.

    Making things accessible does NOT mean massive changes to products. The UK's Disability Discrimination Act makes it clear that "reasonable" efforts should be made to provide a level playing field. The DDA does not state everything should be accessible to everyone regardless of cost / effort / feasibility / etc

    Accessibility should *always* be designed-in from the start. In any case it's much cheaper that way than re-engineering something later to comply with the law.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      so how long

      until a similar action is taken in the UK?

      and why are cellphones not enhanced for the blind while they're at it? After all, the old rotary dial was easier to use (in the dark, in a smoke filled room etc) than a modern qwerty ot T20 phone... and a visual only caller ID is discriminatory

      As someone who spends a lot of my working day on closed caption enabling online content I actually care about this quite a lot... but frankly litigation is not the answer - education is

  6. IR

    I hope

    I hope they are also not using audio devices in their music classes because deaf people can't hear them.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    whatever next....

    I suppose the yanks will next ban ipods since headphones are no use to deaf people !

  8. james the l

    That's it - I've had enough

    I'm finally motivated to get off my backside and post a comment.

    So... just because some people won't be able to use something, this means that no-one else should be able to use it?

    I'm all for equal opportunities etc. (honest), but this is mad, mad mad.

  9. Stratman


    Some here are missing the point. From the original article

    "That Act prohibits discrimination against people on the basis of their disability and applies to public bodies and all post-secondary educational institutions whether public or private."

    Still, as NASA is a public body I'm looking forward to the first deaf dumb and blind Shuttle pilot.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    In reverse.....

    So as a deaf person ..... I object to an audio book on an MP3 player because the MP3 player doesn't allow me to read it!

    How do we cope with books on PAPER..... do the publishers have to make an audio version available of all books. Perhaps we can have audio bomb making manuals for blind terrorists (Note - this is irony).

  11. Dean 5


    And what about my printer? Should it be made accessible to the blind?

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