Three U.S. universities will stop promoting the use of Amazon.com's Kindle DX e-book reader in classrooms after complaints that the device doesn't give blind students equal access to information.
Settlements with Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Pace University in New York City and Reed College in Portland, Oregon, were announced Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Justice. The National Federation of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind had complained that use of the Kindle devices discriminates against students with vision problems.
The complaints about the Kindle were based on the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability.
The three universities were among six schools participating in an Amazon.com pilot program testing the use of the Kindle DX in classrooms. On Monday, a fourth participating school, Arizona State University, also reached a settlement with the DOJ and the two organizations representing the blind.
Three other schools announced in late 2009 they will not deploy Kindle in classrooms.
The Kindle DX has the capability to convert text to synthesized speech, but the device does not include text-to-speech functionality for its menu and navigational controls, the DOJ said in a press release. Some reviewers and users of the device's text-to-speech software have also said the speech is difficult to listen to and the conversion can be inaccurate.
These points are absolutely correct, but doesn't the logic require that the universities stop using books as well? Presumably in classes that do require paper codexes, blind students do not use those editions, but rather Braille editions (or, if students just have very poor vision, large print editions). So why not follow the same policy in this case — Kindles for sighted students and Braille editions for the blind? I'm sure I'm missing something.