ASU sued by blind groups over use of Amazon’s e-book device

Books Technology
amazonkindledx
Amazon Kindle DX

Arizona State University is being sued by advocates for the blind, who say the school is discriminating against vision-impaired students by offering textbooks via Amazon’s Kindle DX electronic reading device, according to a story by Courthouse News Service.

Darrell Shandrow, an ASU journalism student who is listed as a plaintiff along with the National Federation of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind, tells ASU’s State Press that the Kindle DX’s lack of an audio menu interfacefeatures locks the blind out of the new technology and puts them at a competitive disadavantage.

“While my peers will have instant access to their course materials in electronic form, I will still have to wait weeks or months for accessible texts to be prepared for me, and these texts will not provide the access and features available to other students,” Shandrow told the student newspaper.

ASU announced the pilot program in May. The proposal was spearheaded by Dr. Ted Humphrey, a President’s Professor at the Barrett Honors College who described himself as an early adopter of the Kindle.

You can read the complaint here (PDF, 93.1KB).

(Tip of the hat to Ray Stern’s Valley Fever blog for bringing the lawsuit to my attention.)

Update: See below for comment from Shandrow.

See also: ASU to pilot Kindle’s e-textbook program (May 6, 2009, The Associated Press)

Image courtesy Amazon.com

Here and there ...

Tagged , , , , , ,
Jayson Peters
Digital, social and print media pro. Nerdvana's founder, curator and editor.
http://jaysonpeters.com

14 thoughts on “ASU sued by blind groups over use of Amazon’s e-book device

  1. This is just another case of someone jumping the gun to be first without placing their brain in gear. Anyone with a working brain cell should have seen this coming. There are such simple solutions to this. Talking books and pin-type electronic reading devices have been available for the sight impaired for years. Making these books available for these devices would have not taken that much additional time. Unfortunately, the competitive disadvantage will continue for some time while the electronic equivalents are prepared.

  2. This is just another case of someone jumping the gun to be first without placing their brain in gear. Anyone with a working brain cell should have seen this coming. There are such simple solutions to this. Talking books and pin-type electronic reading devices have been available for the sight impaired for years. Making these books available for these devices would have not taken that much additional time. Unfortunately, the competitive disadvantage will continue for some time while the electronic equivalents are prepared.

  3. I believe it is absolutely essential for students like myself to be afforded the opportunity to participate on terms of equality with our sighted peers. The university, which uses taxpayer dollars and tuition dollars, should not be endorsing or purchasing technology they know is inaccessible to students with disabilities. I’m excited about the Kindle pilot program and hope it can begin later, once Amazon and book publishers decide to make the Kindle and the books created for it accessible to everyone, including those of us whom happpen to be blind or visually impaired.

    The Kindle DX already features text-to-speech technology. We just need that capability to extend to the entire device, including its menus and other user-interface controls, so that we can gain access to the books. An inaccessible talking Kindle is like a wheelchair-accessible building with elevators on the inside but only stairs with no ramps on the outside. Such a building would be accessible once you got in, but there’s no way to climb those stairs in a wheelchair.

  4. I believe it is absolutely essential for students like myself to be afforded the opportunity to participate on terms of equality with our sighted peers. The university, which uses taxpayer dollars and tuition dollars, should not be endorsing or purchasing technology they know is inaccessible to students with disabilities. I’m excited about the Kindle pilot program and hope it can begin later, once Amazon and book publishers decide to make the Kindle and the books created for it accessible to everyone, including those of us whom happpen to be blind or visually impaired.

    The Kindle DX already features text-to-speech technology. We just need that capability to extend to the entire device, including its menus and other user-interface controls, so that we can gain access to the books. An inaccessible talking Kindle is like a wheelchair-accessible building with elevators on the inside but only stairs with no ramps on the outside. Such a building would be accessible once you got in, but there’s no way to climb those stairs in a wheelchair.

  5. Great. Attack the sighted people who produced the technology for you in the first place. I don’t try to be a prick, but when things like this come up, I find it hard to take a whiner seriously. I’m feel for people being blind and not having the ability even know what color looks like in so many instances. I wish things were different and that we could cure blindness. but what is it you’re suing for? Even if the University is found to be guilty, what are you asking for in compensation, that the students who can see be hindered against other universities who have been given access to these materials? I certainly hope you aren’t asking for financial compensation. Just because you aren’t able at the moment to compete while provisions are being made on your behalf doesn’t meant that students without YOUR disadvantage need to be handicapped against THEIR competition. And in the meantime you’re wasting alread scarce university resources bringing this litigation upon them. Shame on you for thinking that the world needs to revolve around you at the expense of an overwhelming majority who has proven historically to make strides that enables you to compete in the marketplace with others lacking disabilities. Your Kindle is coming, so keep your pants on.

  6. Great. Attack the sighted people who produced the technology for you in the first place. I don’t try to be a prick, but when things like this come up, I find it hard to take a whiner seriously. I’m feel for people being blind and not having the ability even know what color looks like in so many instances. I wish things were different and that we could cure blindness. but what is it you’re suing for? Even if the University is found to be guilty, what are you asking for in compensation, that the students who can see be hindered against other universities who have been given access to these materials? I certainly hope you aren’t asking for financial compensation. Just because you aren’t able at the moment to compete while provisions are being made on your behalf doesn’t meant that students without YOUR disadvantage need to be handicapped against THEIR competition. And in the meantime you’re wasting alread scarce university resources bringing this litigation upon them. Shame on you for thinking that the world needs to revolve around you at the expense of an overwhelming majority who has proven historically to make strides that enables you to compete in the marketplace with others lacking disabilities. Your Kindle is coming, so keep your pants on.

  7. The author, Darrell, states that “The university, which uses taxpayer dollars and tuition dollars, should not be endorsing or purchasing technology they know is inaccessible to students with disabilities.”

    Does he mean that stairs should be outlawed because some disabled students can not access them? The Kindle IS accessible to the blind reader – its just not usable…. much like stairs to someone in a wheel chair.

    Perhaps Darrell meant to say that “Life isn’t fair”. Well, Darrell, you’re either of the mindset that the world should be fair or your of the mindset that the Universities should level the field so all can compete fairly. Both are fantasy lands and neither one makes you a better person which, coincidentally, you should be learning how to be at a University.

  8. The author, Darrell, states that “The university, which uses taxpayer dollars and tuition dollars, should not be endorsing or purchasing technology they know is inaccessible to students with disabilities.”

    Does he mean that stairs should be outlawed because some disabled students can not access them? The Kindle IS accessible to the blind reader – its just not usable…. much like stairs to someone in a wheel chair.

    Perhaps Darrell meant to say that “Life isn’t fair”. Well, Darrell, you’re either of the mindset that the world should be fair or your of the mindset that the Universities should level the field so all can compete fairly. Both are fantasy lands and neither one makes you a better person which, coincidentally, you should be learning how to be at a University.

  9. I continue to be astonished at the unabashed hostility theoretically civilized people are demonstrating with regard to efforts by blind Americans to obtain equal access to information and opportunity. DMILLIE, you should be ashamed of yourself for not taking the time to investigate this matter. the National Federation of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind along with other groups in the Reading Coalition urged Amazon for months to extend their text-to-speech function to Kindle’s functions. When ASU and other schools decided to do this pilot project, NFB also spoke to them explaining that doing so would put blind students at a disadvantage and be in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. They urged them to use their influence with Amazon to make Kindle fully accessible — which wouldn’t take much since the text-to-speech is already in there. They were unsuccessful; hence the need for legal action.

    My impression is that there is a class of people well represented here who believe that the blind should know their place and stay in it. We should take what is “given” to us and allow the obviously superior sighted people to decide what is best for us. Those days are over. Nor, do we need to be cured. Nor, do we need people massaging themselves with sorrow over our inability to see colors and parading their hand-ringing as proof of their humanity.

    There are blind lawyers, chemists, computer programmers, engineers, mechanics and the list goes on. Those who look down their noses at us are unwittingly benefiting from technologies we have helped develop. Yet, unemployment among blind Americans of working age is seventy percent. Furthermore, only ten percent of America’s blind kids are taught to read Braille despite clear evidence that knowing Braille influences employability, educational success and income. Over eighty percent of those who do work are Braille readers.

    Despite the fact that blind people are succeeding in professions like those listed above, people like DMILLIE assume that it is the sighted people who are doing things for us, again showing the “so yesterday” notion that we are incapable of participating on the same level as the sighted. students like Darrell who have come forward to participate as plaintiffs in this case are heroes. The whining is coming from the sighted who don’t want to accept us as equal members of society or make the slightest adjustments to their thought processes in developing technologies which could easily be made accessible to millions who are print handicapped through visual as well as learning disabilities.

    Joe’s comparison of this issue with stairs is missing the point that elevators and ramps are made available now because people fought for the right to physical access. In the case of information, the Kindle is an example that shows how efficiently accessibility can be achieved, since it isn’t necessary to built anything separate, merely to mess around with a few ones and zeros. This has been done in many other instances; it’s not like no one knows how to do it.

  10. I continue to be astonished at the unabashed hostility theoretically civilized people are demonstrating with regard to efforts by blind Americans to obtain equal access to information and opportunity. DMILLIE, you should be ashamed of yourself for not taking the time to investigate this matter. the National Federation of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind along with other groups in the Reading Coalition urged Amazon for months to extend their text-to-speech function to Kindle’s functions. When ASU and other schools decided to do this pilot project, NFB also spoke to them explaining that doing so would put blind students at a disadvantage and be in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. They urged them to use their influence with Amazon to make Kindle fully accessible — which wouldn’t take much since the text-to-speech is already in there. They were unsuccessful; hence the need for legal action.

    My impression is that there is a class of people well represented here who believe that the blind should know their place and stay in it. We should take what is “given” to us and allow the obviously superior sighted people to decide what is best for us. Those days are over. Nor, do we need to be cured. Nor, do we need people massaging themselves with sorrow over our inability to see colors and parading their hand-ringing as proof of their humanity.

    There are blind lawyers, chemists, computer programmers, engineers, mechanics and the list goes on. Those who look down their noses at us are unwittingly benefiting from technologies we have helped develop. Yet, unemployment among blind Americans of working age is seventy percent. Furthermore, only ten percent of America’s blind kids are taught to read Braille despite clear evidence that knowing Braille influences employability, educational success and income. Over eighty percent of those who do work are Braille readers.

    Despite the fact that blind people are succeeding in professions like those listed above, people like DMILLIE assume that it is the sighted people who are doing things for us, again showing the “so yesterday” notion that we are incapable of participating on the same level as the sighted. students like Darrell who have come forward to participate as plaintiffs in this case are heroes. The whining is coming from the sighted who don’t want to accept us as equal members of society or make the slightest adjustments to their thought processes in developing technologies which could easily be made accessible to millions who are print handicapped through visual as well as learning disabilities.

    Joe’s comparison of this issue with stairs is missing the point that elevators and ramps are made available now because people fought for the right to physical access. In the case of information, the Kindle is an example that shows how efficiently accessibility can be achieved, since it isn’t necessary to built anything separate, merely to mess around with a few ones and zeros. This has been done in many other instances; it’s not like no one knows how to do it.

  11. @Donna Hill: so you’re saying that being able to access the Kindle Pilot project would vastly improve the ability of blind students to compete with their classmates, about 60 (out of 50,000) of whom are using Kindles?
    That’s ridiculous.
    I’m a student at ASU, and I find this whole matter pretty damn comedic.
    If the Kindle suddenly became a required tool, I could see where the disdain from the blind society would come from. But, if it’s a test pilot project, I don’t really understand what the big deal is. I honestly doubt that all of the blind students at ASU would suddenly rush to the Kindle if these “text-to-speech” menus that they’re craving suddenly became available.
    I mean, is the Kindle really that useful to the blind, audio or not? Wouldn’t it be easier to read Braille? Oh, wait, I forgot, the blind population is purposely being kept in the dark (pardon) because the evil sighted majority is trying to put them at a disadvantage.
    I mean, seriously, while you’re at it, might as well rally the troops and sue some alarm clock manufacturers that don’t produce alarm clocks that say the time as well as display it. If you’re so tired of your position in life, why not sue God and nature for putting you at a disadvantage? That’ll show the world you have the power to fight back…against common sense.
    Like other responders have said, I’m sure that the Kindle will eventually incorporate audio menus. Until then, the blind population can really help their causes by suing financially troubled universities over trivial matters.

  12. @Donna Hill: so you’re saying that being able to access the Kindle Pilot project would vastly improve the ability of blind students to compete with their classmates, about 60 (out of 50,000) of whom are using Kindles?
    That’s ridiculous.
    I’m a student at ASU, and I find this whole matter pretty damn comedic.
    If the Kindle suddenly became a required tool, I could see where the disdain from the blind society would come from. But, if it’s a test pilot project, I don’t really understand what the big deal is. I honestly doubt that all of the blind students at ASU would suddenly rush to the Kindle if these “text-to-speech” menus that they’re craving suddenly became available.
    I mean, is the Kindle really that useful to the blind, audio or not? Wouldn’t it be easier to read Braille? Oh, wait, I forgot, the blind population is purposely being kept in the dark (pardon) because the evil sighted majority is trying to put them at a disadvantage.
    I mean, seriously, while you’re at it, might as well rally the troops and sue some alarm clock manufacturers that don’t produce alarm clocks that say the time as well as display it. If you’re so tired of your position in life, why not sue God and nature for putting you at a disadvantage? That’ll show the world you have the power to fight back…against common sense.
    Like other responders have said, I’m sure that the Kindle will eventually incorporate audio menus. Until then, the blind population can really help their causes by suing financially troubled universities over trivial matters.

Comments are closed.