RE: Access to Electronic Textbooks

Year: 
2009
Resolution Number: 
2009-02

RESOLUTION 2009-02
RE: Access to Electronic Textbooks

WHEREAS, advances in technology have brought us hand-held electronic book-reading devices such as the Kindle by Amazon and the Reader Digital Book by Sony; and

WHEREAS, ink on paper cannot be read independently by the blind, but, when properly created, electronic books offer total access to blind and other print-disabled individuals, vastly enlarging the amount of information available to the blind; and

WHEREAS, while electronic book-reading devices exist in the commercial marketplace, none can be used by those requiring nonvisual access; and

WHEREAS, the closest the blind and other print-disabled people have come to achieving nonvisual access to such devices came with the release of Amazon’s Kindle 2, which included text-to-speech technology to read e-books aloud; and

WHEREAS, while the inclusion of text-to-speech technology to read the text of e-books aloud was a step towards accessibility, the interface and controls of the Kindle 2 are not yet accessible to the blind, although Amazon has promised accessibility at some point in the future; and

WHEREAS, shortly after the release of the Kindle 2, both the Authors Guild and publishers demanded that the text-to-speech feature on books for the Kindle 2 be disabled; and

WHEREAS, in May 2009 Amazon launched the Kindle DX, a digital reader that also contains text-to-speech technology with a larger screen and other features ideally intended for college and university students to read text books and other materials, but that is also inaccessible to the blind; and

WHEREAS, the nonvisual access of the Kindle DX doubtlessly resulted from the same factors that led to the nonvisual access of the Kindle 2; and

WHEREAS, Amazon has partnered with Arizona State University for a pilot study to determine the feasibility of expanding use of the Kindle DX as a means of reading textbooks and course materials, even though Amazon was aware and the schools should have been aware of the inaccessibility of this device; and

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind have filed suit against Arizona State University to bar the use of the Kindle DX, arguing that its use violates Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Section 2 of the Americans with Disabilities Act; and

WHEREAS, with the continuation of the advancement of technology and with rumors of the print book becoming obsolete, it is critical that blind and other print-disabled people not be left without a means of accessing these devices: NOW, THEREFORE,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Arizona in Convention assembled this 13th day of September, 2009, in the city of Tucson, Arizona, that this organization condemn and deplore the actions of Amazon and of ASU participating in this pilot study regarding the Kindle DX and demand that these institutions abide by the applicable disability laws and refuse to deploy the Kindle DX until it is fully accessible to blind students; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization strongly urges copyright holders not to block access of their materials in electronic media to blind and print-disabled readers and to work with the National Federation of the Blind of Arizona to ensure such access.

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