If someone can’t use something that has huge benefits for lots of people, then no one can.
Last year, the schools — among them Princeton, Arizona State and Case Western Reserve — wanted to know if e-book readers would be more convenient and less costly than traditional textbooks. The environmentally conscious educators also wanted to reduce the huge amount of paper students use to print files from their laptops.
It seemed like a promising idea until the universities got a letter from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, now under an aggressive new chief, Thomas Perez, telling them they were under investigation for possible violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act.
From its introduction in 2007, the Kindle has drawn criticism from the National Federation of the Blind and other activist groups. While the Kindle’s text-to-speech feature could read a book aloud, its menu functions required sight to operate. “If you could get a sighted person to fire up the device and start reading the book to you, that’s fine,” says Chris Danielsen, a spokesman for the federation. “But other than that, there was really no way to use it.”
So someone complained, and the DOJ is shutting it down. Because that is fairness.
Some officials at the schools were puzzled. Given the speed of technological development and the reality of competition among technology companies — Apple products were already fully text-to-speech capable — wasn’t this a problem the market would solve?
That’s not Perez’s way. To him, keeping the Kindle out of sighted students’ hands underscored “the importance of full and equal educational opportunities for everyone.”
In early 2010, after most of the courses were over, the Justice Department reached agreement with the schools, and the federation settled with Arizona State. The schools denied violating the ADA but agreed that until the Kindle was fully accessible, nobody would use it.
Run through this in your mind. The Kindle is smaller, lighter, and more versatile than paper text books. It costs less to buy books. There is almost no environmental impact of getting a book on the Kindle. Yet the DOJ wants to stop this because a tiny part of the population of private colleges needs help turning it on.
Think of how awesome health care will be when it’s run like this!
Link via The Agitator