[tabi] [Tektalkdiscussion] Blind Students right to full access

  • From: "Lynn Evans" <evans-lynn@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 10 Sep 2009 20:02:18 -0400

    We thank Sherry Wells for this great article. Bob acosta

The following article is forwarded to you by the DBTAC-Great Lakes ADA Center 
(www.adagreatlakes.org) for your information: 
Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI) 
September 2, 2009 
Blind students' rights, e-readers at issue 
By Megha Satyanarayana
Free Press Staff Writer 
Efforts to bring some of the most cutting-edge technologies to Wayne State 
University classrooms could violate the rights of blind students, lawyer and 
Board of Governors Chairman Richard Bernstein said today. 

At issue is Amazon.com's best-selling Kindle 2 e-reader, a device that allows 
users to download books and documents for reading on the go. The company is 
working with universities nationwide to use the readers in classrooms to 
replace textbooks, bound notes and other learning materials. 

The device has software that converts text to voice, making it possible for 
blind people to listen to texts. But in an agreement with book publishers and 
authors, who believe the text-to-voice function will eat into audiobook sales, 
individual authors and publishers can decide whether to allow readers to use 
the text-to-voice function on the device. Otherwise, it is disabled. 

Bernstein said the device, as it is now, is not accessible to the blind, and 
should the university decide to contract with Amazon.com for the devices, they 
would be in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

"This is the new world," Bernstein said of the technology. "This is the most 
important thing the disabled population has been faced with. Imagine if 
everyone can download everything but you." There are 48 low-vision or blind 
students at Wayne State University. 

The National Federation for the Blind, which is suing Arizona State University 
for its use of the e-reader in classes this fall, goes further, saying the 
device, even with the software, is nearly impossible for the blind to use, 
because it is not interactive and users cannot easily download and play 

"A blind student is not going to be able to navigate in the text book. A blind 
person can't really do anything else with a Kindle," said Chris Danielsen, NFB 

Currently, universities have the means to take textbooks and make them 
accessible to blind students by scanning them into programs that work with 
voice recognition software, but the time it takes to scan books means many 
blind students go weeks without texts, or have to buy books well before their 
classmates with sight. 

At the monthly Board of Governors meeting today, Bernstein asked the university 
to hold off on efforts to bring e-readers to classrooms until the text-to-voice 
function is fully restored. The board voted unanimously on a resolution urging 
Amazon.com to reverse its decision to disable the software. 

"If a company wants to produce an inaccessible device, they have every right to 
do so. But if you want to work within the university community, you have to 
adhere to basic values and principles," Bernstein said. 

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