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University Kindle Program Settlements under ADA

By Minara El-Rahman | Last updated on

The Department of Justice released a press release that announced three university Kindle programs settlements under the ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act). The three universities that reached the settlements are: Case Western Reserve University, Pace University, and Reed College. The Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon had worked out a deal with several textbook publishers to make their reading materials available through Kindle; which is an electronic book reader. Amazon worked out an experimental program with universities to introduce the Kindle to students instead of traditional textbooks. The schools included are Pace, Princeton, Reed, the Darden School at the University of Virginia, Case Western Reserve University and ASU.

Recently, a lawsuit brought forth by two groups representing the blind -- the National Federation of the Blind, and the American Council of the Blind -- on behalf of a blind student at Arizona State University was settled. In the lawsuit, concerns were raised over accessibility under the ADA was raised. We wrote about that settlement in the Injured Blog here.

The settlements reached by the other universities detailed that the universities will not purchase, recommend or promote the use of the Kindle DX or any other electronic book reader until the reader is completely accessible to the blind, or those with low vision. The settlements with the Dept. of Justice extend to all e-readers used in university programs, not just the Kindle DX. The universities agreed that it will not use e-readers until students with vision disabilities are able to enjoy the e-reader to the full extent as students with sight.

Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez was quoted in the press release as saying: "Advancing technology is systematically changing the way universities approach education, but we must be sure that emerging technologies offer individuals with disabilities the same opportunities as other students. These agreements underscore the importance of full and equal educational opportunities for everyone." 

Under the ADA, colleges and universities are required to provide students with appropriate academic adjustments and auxiliary aids and services that are necessary to afford an individual with a disability an equal opportunity to participate in the school's program. The Kindle program was not compliant because blind students were unable to access the Kindle's menu with a read aloud menu. While text on the Kindle could be read aloud, the Kindle was not fully accessible to blind students.

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