ADA: Feds intervened against college Kindles

When several universities put out word that they were considering lightening the textbook load on their student body by moving to e-book formats, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division put them under investigation for possible violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The targets soon buckled: “The schools denied violating the ADA but agreed that until the Kindle was fully accessible, nobody would use it.” [Byron York, Examiner]


  • Previously I said I supported the schools refusing to use it because it was what we wanted: market pressure being brought to bear, instead of litigation. And everyone jumped all over me for saying it.

    Now, we find out this fact, yes, I think it was inappropriate to pressure them. Kindle should be as a matter of policy, required to accommodate the blind better. But at the same time I suspect the law would actually have to be changed to do it.

    The school is committing no act of discrimination to shift to kindle. Kindle is. They are the ones who should be in the cross hairs. and yeah, that might take a change in law to do it.

    now feel free to throw things at me.

  • It appears, based on the article, that Amazon has released a version that meets all the accessibility requests put forward…and it’s still potentially not enough.

    Right now it looks like a tremendous waste of federal resources to chase a non-issue. Instead of allowing universities to run some completely voluntary experiments, they spent resources hampering the potential adoption of a new technology that will ultimately go a long way to help blind and sighted people.

    And I disagree that Kindle should have been in the cross-hairs to begin with. If the Kindle couldn’t meet the requirements at a publicly funded university, the university could not (and should not) *require* its adoption by all students. That should not, however, preclude them from making it an option for people that can take advantage of it. Increased adoption will only lead to more changes faster, as it increases the amount of money Amazon (in this case) has and is willing to throw at the problem.

  • ADA reminds me of the island in Gulliver’s Travels where they build houses from the roof down.

  • Aaron,

    I won’t throw things at you 😉 but why should Kindle be required to comply with ADA or make any changes in order to be accessible to the disabled? I am not aware of any ADA regulations that are applicable.
    I believe they are only required to comply with ADA if they want to be in a market like colleges and universities (which is a huge market and therefore something they should be interested in – but there are no requirements nonetheless).

    If I am wrong, please correct and/or throw things at me.

  • Of course by disallowing the use of Kindle, the students would be forced to use textbooks. I don’t believe those books come with a reader attached. In other words, the DoJ was not helping blind students; they were simply hurting non-blind students. Also, anyone with a modicum of intelligence, which of course leaves out government bureaucrats, would realize that it would be relatively easy to modify Kindle to make it accessible to the blind. In other words they should have been encouraging schools to use Kindle rather than preventing them from using it.

  • […] Justice Department is pretty worthless, too, claiming that the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits colleges from shifting to digital textbooks from their paper equivalents. They claim that the requirement to use Amazon’s Kindle hurts […]

  • Kindle should be as a matter of policy, required to accommodate the blind better. But at the same time I suspect the law would actually have to be changed to do it.

    No, Kindle should be able to make a product to whatever market they want. Why would anyone demand that a company has to make a product for some market segment?

    Kindle is. They are the ones who should be in the cross hairs. and yeah, that might take a change in law to do it.

    You could always go out and develop your own “Kindle” that would satisfy the market you want. We’ve been down this path before though. You feel that the government has the right to tell a company what products they make. The rest of us feel that as long as the product is “safe,” a company should be able to develop a product as they see fit.

  • With just a little bit of prodding I bet the feds could find someone (or more) worthy of jail time. I can’t find any precedent for using the ADA against a product. Certainly every college book publisher does not a braille copy of every overpriced textbook in use today.

    Further, it is interesting that the very organization who supposedly complained, months earlier hailed the talking Kindle a godsend. What caused them to change their position. Somebody needs to look for the money trail. It’s got to be there somewhere.

    I’ve spent over fifteen years on the board of a organization for the blind and none of the blind people I know thought this was in any way a good approach to solving a minor problem that in actuality didn’t exist.

  • Even if there were a braille copy of every textbook, I’ll bet the graphics wouldn’t be as good. The entire ADA concept needs to be abolished. This is just an excuse for tyranny.

  • Related story: Stanford just announced that they’re giving an iPad to every first year Med Student next year.

  • Kindle textbooks would be a huge help in many ways- cost reduction not to mention saving lugging the heavy texts around. One thought – in our enlightened ‘green’, save-the-planet world, where are the usually outspoken environmentalists when you need them? This is one area of eReaders that sure makes a lot of sense (college textbooks) and reason a higher court should intervene and get this cleared up, and soon. The pushback on Kindles (and other brands) reminds me of when Jukeboxes first came out – the music industry argued it would put live bands out of business.