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Amazon Bows To Pressure On Kindle Accessibility

The online retailer Amazon.com is to incorporate extra accessibility features into its Kindle DX electronic book reader or ‘e-reader’, after several American universities rejected the device as a potential teaching-aid, citing inaccessibility to blind students (see E-Access Bulletin, issue 119: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=357 ).

Audible menus and an extra-large font size will be added to the new version of the Kindle DX on its release this summer. The menu feature addresses claims by Syracuse and Wisconsin-Madison universities that although the Kindle features a text-to-speech function valuable for blind users, inaccessible menus meant that such users would not be able to activate the function.

In a related development, one US university that did use the Kindle in a pilot programme reached a settlement earlier this month in a lawsuit filed by the US National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and the American Council of the Blind (ACB).

Arizona State University was one of several universities to pilot the Kindle, all of which were due to give feedback to Amazon.com to assist with the device’s development. However the NFB and ACB alleged that as the Kindle was not fully accessible to blind students, its use in the university, even in a pilot, violated federal law.

Amazon’s new plans to make the Kindle more accessible have emerged as a factor in the Arizona settlement, as was a commitment by the university to provide students with accessible e-book readers over the coming years.

In a statement, NFB President Marc Maurer said his organisation was “pleased with this settlement, which we believe will help to ensure that new technologies create new opportunities for blind students rather than new barriers.”

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