Blind students may have problems using Amazon’s Kindle DX, which is being tested in pilot group classes at ASU in fall 2009.
The National Federation of the Blind, American Council of the Blind and Darrell Shandrow, an ASU journalism student, filed a complaint against ASU in order to avoid the future use of the Kindle in the classroom until it is made accessible to blind students.
According to the complaint, the Kindle DX has a “text-to-speech function that renders the e-book into audible speech; thus, if the Kindle menus and controls were accessible, blind students would have access to the same content as sighted students through the same device.”
However, the Kindle DX has no text-to-speech function for menu options, so blind students cannot use the device without assistance.
“What needs to happen is the menus on the Kindle DX need to be made so blind students can use them,” said Chris Danielson, director of public relations at the National Foundation of the Blind.
He said blind students are at a disadvantage because they have to wait long periods of time for their textbooks to be printed, while students using the Kindle DX can access their textbooks immediately.
“ASU literally advises [blind] students to book their courses in advance and to have reduced course loads,” Danielson said.
He said other reading device options available right now are inadequate for blind students.
“There are reading devices that blind people use, but none of them can use the texts that are available on the Kindle,” Danielson said.
He also said the problem with using the Kindle DX in its current state in a pilot group is that it will promote the University to provide other services that may be inaccessible to blind students.
“This is a pilot program, but obviously the University is considering expanding [the Kindle DX] to other students,” he said.
Danielson said that although the University doesn’t have an adequate solution for blind students at the moment, he hopes ASU will discuss options.
“We hope ASU will be able to discuss the issue with us at the appropriate time,” Danielson said.
Amazon.com, Inc. said they had no comment at the time.
In an e-mail statement, Martha Dennis Christiansen, director of Counseling and Consultation and associate vice president of University Student Initiatives, said “ASU is committed to equal access for all students.”
She said all campuses have Disability Resource Centers and that these allow disabled students to obtain services and accommodations.
“These efforts are focused on providing the necessary tools to ensure that all students with disabilities have an equal opportunity to be successful in their academic pursuits,” Christiansen said.
Shandrow, also a member of the American Council of the Blind, disagrees.
“Not having access to the advanced reading features of the Kindle DX … will lock me out of this new technology and put me and other blind students at a competitive disadvantage relative to our sighted peers,” he said in a news release from the National Federation of the Blind.
Shandrow added that printing issues make it difficult for him to have the same advantages as other students who use the Kindle DX.
“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,” he said.
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