Monday, August 16, 2010

Books that come alive

In May 2009, Amazon announced the pilot program, under which it would provide Kindle DX readers to a few universities. It wasn't a huge deal; Princeton's plan, for example, involved three courses and a total of 51 students, and only in the fall semester of that year. University spokeswoman Emily Aronson says the program was voluntary and students could opt out of using the Kindle. "There were no students with a visual impairment who had registered for the three classes," says Aronson.

Nevertheless, in June 2009, the federation filed a complaint with the Justice Department, accusing the schools of violating the ADA. Perez and his team went to work.

"We acted swiftly to respond to complaints we received about the use of the Amazon Kindle," Perez recently told a House committee. "We must remain vigilant to ensure that as new devices are introduced, people with disabilities are not left behind."

Wait just one second. The existing devices, also known as textbooks, completely leave people with disabilities behind. They don't read to you, and if you're blind you can't use them. Why doesn't the Justice Department sue all schools that use textbooks?

To recap. At time t=0, there are two options. Textbooks, and whatever blind studends are using (Braille books, people to read to them, books on tape, etc). At time t=1, there are three options. Textbooks, the existing aids for blind people, and the Kindle, which is a glorified PDF reader. T=0 is good, T=1 is bad.

Who knew that providing the same data in more formats oppressed people?

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