The National Federation of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind are suing Arizona State University for its use of the Amazon Kindle to distribute electronic textbooks to students, saying the device cannot be used by blind students.
The groups say the Kindle has text-to-speech technology that reads books aloud to blind students, but that the device’s menus do not offer a way for blind students to purchase books, select a book to read, or even to activate the text-to-speech feature, according to a joint statement by the two groups.
In a lawsuit filed last week, a journalism student was also named as a plaintiff.
“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,” said the student, Darrell Shandrow, in the groups’ statement. “These texts will not provide the access and features available to other students.”
In a statement to the Library Journal, a university spokeswoman, Martha Dennis Christiansen, did not answer any specific questions pertaining to the lawsuit.
“Arizona State University is committed to equal access for all students. Disability Resource Centers are located on all ASU campuses. The centers enable students to establish eligibility and obtain services and accommodations for qualified students with disabilities,” she said. “These efforts are focused on providing the necessary tools so that all students with disabilities have an equal opportunity to be successful in their academic pursuits.”
The complaint asked the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education and the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate similar practices at Case Western Reserve University, the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia, Pace University, Princeton University, and Reed College. —Marc Beja