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Justice Department Reaches Three Settlements Under the Americans with Disabilities Act Regarding the Use of Electronic Book Readers
January 13, 2010
WASHINGTON Ė The Justice Department today announced separate agreements under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, [Ohio,] Pace University in New York City and Reed College in Portland, Oregon, regarding the use in a classroom setting of the electronic book reader, the Kindle DX, a hand-held technological device that simulates the experience of reading a book.
Under the agreements reached today, the universities generally will not purchase, recommend or promote use of the Kindle DX, or any other dedicated electronic book reader, unless the devices are fully accessible to students who are blind and have low vision. The universities agree that if they use dedicated electronic book readers, they will ensure that students with vision disabilities are able to access and acquire the same materials and information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as sighted students with substantially equivalent ease of use. The agreements that the Justice Department reached with these universities extend beyond the Kindle DX to any dedicated electronic reading device.
These agreements follow the Jan. 11, 2010 agreement between the Justice Department, Arizona State University, the National Federation of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind concerning the use of electronic book readers.
"Advancing technology is systematically changing the way universities approach education, but we must be sure that emerging technologies offer individuals with disabilities the same opportunities as other students," said Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez. "These agreements underscore the importance of full and equal educational opportunities for everyone."
A handful of universities participated in a pilot project in cooperation with Amazon.com Inc. to test the viability of the Kindle DX in a classroom setting. The terms of the Justice Departmentís agreement with each university become effective at the end of the pilot projects.
The current model of the Kindle DX has the capability to read texts aloud, so that the materials would be accessible to blind individuals, but the device does not include a similar text-to-speech function for the menu and navigational controls. Without access to the menus, students who are blind have no way to know which book they have selected or how to access the Kindle DX Web browser or its other functions. The technological "know how" to make navigational controls or menu selections accessible is available.
Other universities, such as Syracuse University and the University of Wisconsin at Madison, also examined the utility of the Kindle DX as a teaching device and decided that they would not use the Kindle DX until it is accessible to blind individuals.
In passing the ADA and the recent ADA Amendments Act, Congress found that individuals with disabilities were uniquely disadvantaged in critical areas, including education. It is a core priority of the Civil Rights Division to strengthen and expand the educational opportunities for individuals with disabilities.
The ADA prohibits discrimination by public accommodations on the basis of disability, including discrimination in private post-secondary institutions. Those interested in finding out more about these agreements or seeking information about and how to comply with the ADA can call the Justice Departmentís toll-free ADA Information Line at (800) 514-0301 or (800) 514-0383 (TDD), or access its ADA Web site at http://www.ada.gov.
News source: U.S. Department of Justice