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Feds threatened universities that used Kindles, claiming they violated the civil rights of the blind

Come on, this is so preposterous that it has to be the brainchild of the Onion, right? Nope, the feds really did threaten to sue the universities that allowed students to use Kindles for textbooks. Byron York wrote about it last week

Did you know the Justice Department threatened several universities with legal action because they took part in an experimental program to allow students to use the Amazon Kindle for textbooks?

Last year, the schools -- among them Princeton, Arizona State and Case Western Reserve -- wanted to know if e-book readers would be more convenient and less costly than traditional textbooks. The environmentally conscious educators also wanted to reduce the huge amount of paper students use to print files from their laptops.

It seemed like a promising idea until the universities got a letter from the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, now under an aggressive new chief, Thomas Perez, telling them they were under investigation for possible violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Why would the federal government get so upset about something as innocuous as the Kindle? It goes to the heart of what makes the Obama administration tick:
The Civil Rights Division informed the schools they were under investigation. In subsequent talks, the Justice Department demanded the universities stop distributing the Kindle; if blind students couldn't use the device, then nobody could. The Federation made the same demand in a separate lawsuit against Arizona State.

This is what drives the Obama administration's redistributionist policies. If the poor don't have money, then the feds will just take it from the rich and give it to them. Same thing with votes for felons. However, since the feds can't seize the eyes from the sighted and hand them over to the blind, then the feds will just make sure the sighted are denied products the blind can't use. It's all done in the name of "fairness."

But as York noted, the market was at work and solved that problem on its own:

One obvious solution to the problem, of course, was to fix the Kindle. Early on, Amazon told federation officials it would apply text-to-speech technology to the Kindle's menu and function keys. And sure enough, last week the company announced a new generation of Kindles that are fully accessible to the blind. While the Justice Department was making demands, and Perez was making speeches, the market was working.

But don't worry, the feds under the Obama administration will find some way to punish the haves in the name of delivering justice to the have-nots.

Cross-posted at KimPriestap


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Comments (26)

Let's ban marching bands to... (Below threshold)

Let's ban marching bands too, as, if the deaf can't hear them, and the blind cant see them, no one should.

Part of Alinsky's rules. U... (Below threshold)

Part of Alinsky's rules. Use the system against the system. Whether it makes sense or not. Holder is at DOJ for a reason, no of it actually having to do with "justice".

if blind studen... (Below threshold)
if blind students couldn't use the device, then nobody could.



I'm generally in favor of t... (Below threshold)
James H:

I'm generally in favor of the Americans with Disabilities Act, but ...

... Isn't figuring out whether blind students can use the Kindle part of the process of TESTING it?

Call me crazy, but I think ... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

Call me crazy, but I think the whole thing is a pretense to cover the real reason. Namely, protecting the companies behind textbook printing and distribution. E-readers have the potential to sink them.

And Kindles have the capabi... (Below threshold)

And Kindles have the capability to read the text aloud...

I do believe it's something in the DC water. It might be best to quarantine that entire area, and wait for the madness to subside.

"E-readers have the pote... (Below threshold)
John S:

"E-readers have the potential to sink them..."

Having just been laid off from the textbook industry (to make room for an Indian making 30 cents a day): The books still need to be written, edited, and proofread. And the pages still need to be composed and proofread. The only thing that is eliminated is printing. But the EPA regulations forced all textbook printing to China years ago. And almost all of the pre-press work has gone to India. So Kindles at worst put some Chinese out of work.

James H -".. Is... (Below threshold)

James H -

".. Isn't figuring out whether blind students can use the Kindle part of the process of TESTING it?"

You'd think so, wouldn't you? Personally, I find the presumption that the blind can't figure out how to use buttons on the thing offensive. Hell, I'm a golden retriever with a custom keyboard - I don't have any problems with using a keyboard and I think most humans have better thumbs and tactile abilities than I do.

Do have problems with colors though...

Well, think I'll go take myself for a walk and go to bed.


As you point out Kindles ha... (Below threshold)

As you point out Kindles have a voice to speech feature that makes them far more helpful than paper books.

Come to think of it, why should DOJ allow paper books?

Let's ban marching... (Below threshold)
James H:
Let's ban marching bands too, as, if the deaf can't hear them, and the blind cant see them, no one should.

I think we should ban marching bands b/c the deaf have an advantage in that they can't hear them.

LOL @ 10.Weapons-g... (Below threshold)

LOL @ 10.

Weapons-grade music?

It's pretty simple. The lib... (Below threshold)

It's pretty simple. The liberals can burn books, but not Kindles.

And next up... the RIAA wil... (Below threshold)

And next up... the RIAA will sue/lobby to stop this to prevent the damgage to sales of audio books...

JLaw:Why, <a href=... (Below threshold)
James H:


Why, yes.

"if blind students couldn't... (Below threshold)

"if blind students couldn't use the device, then nobody could."

I will now pluck my eyes out so I can get special treatment from Barry n Holder ltd.

Cause I know they care.

And next up... the... (Below threshold)
And next up... the RIAA will sue/lobby to stop this to prevent the damgage to sales of audio books...
Already happened, but it wasn't the RIAA. It was a union of voice actors. This is why the Text-To-Speech function is not available for all Kindle releases, but has to be authorized by the publisher.

Nice to hear the union members admit that their performances are as talentless as a real-time computer generated voice, though.

JSchuler:I have so... (Below threshold)
James H:


I have some sympathy for voice actors there. If a consortium of voice actors has with Publisher X an exclusive contract to provide voice acting for all of Publisher X's novels, then a lawsuit to stop text-to-speech strikes me as an acceptable defense of the voice actors' contractual rights.

You've got a point re audio... (Below threshold)

You've got a point re audiobooks, James H - but that doesn't seem to be what is happening here.

Maybe we've reached critial mass re some sectors of government - in order to justify the resources it's taking, it has to find new 'problems' to rectify, which will require more resources, which will require more problems, and more resources, and more problems....

Death spiral, anyone?

Pretty typical of the cur d... (Below threshold)
Mark L:

Pretty typical of the cur dog philosophy of the ADA. I was living in a small town in Texas in the 1990s. The library was in a building that had been put up in the 1920s. It had a drinking fountain in an alcove that was not wheelchair accessible. It could not be made wheelchair accessible because the alcove was formed by marble pillars. So, in the interest of ADA "fairness" the library had to remove the drinking fountain. Now everyone can go without drinking water, not just the wheelchair-bound.

The problem with the text t... (Below threshold)

The problem with the text to speech thing is the computers don't offer the interpretation verbally that the actors do - its an entirely different presentation of the material, but in audible form. It sounds to me that their contracts might be in violation of the ADA, and Holder et al ought to look into that. Oops, wrong idea because I'd bet the voice actors UNION all votes Obama.

I have a Kindle and absolut... (Below threshold)

I have a Kindle and absolutely love it. I access the blogs and keep up on the latest books at a fraction of the cost. Why would a liberal NOT want to save trees? I smell a rat in the form of publishing and printing houses. I encourage students to use Kindle. Text books are expensive and if students (parents) can purchase them at a much lower price, that would be great. Not to mention the lack of carrying around all that weight. ww

WW:I, personally, ... (Below threshold)
James H:


I, personally, dislike the Kindle. I'm old-fashioned and prefer to hold books in my hand.

I have questions which aren... (Below threshold)

I have questions which aren't answered in the cited text. Since there are Kindle users here, they probably can answer most of them.

Since not all textbooks are available for the Kindle, were the ones that the university selected also available in braille?

What does the Kindle text-to-speech do when it encounters a table of numbers, a graph, or an equation?

Does the Kindle text-to-speech allow you to easily reread a paragraph or skim through section headers to locate a specific area that you want to access?

Not all of us can afford va... (Below threshold)

Not all of us can afford vacations and not all of us are any good at golf. Someone should tell Barry.

"What does the Kindle te... (Below threshold)

"What does the Kindle text-to-speech do when it encounters a table of numbers, a graph, or an equation?"

Haven't a clue. Don't have a Kindle - like James H I prefer paper.

How do they manage the same items in braille books?

Big deal anyway - just have a braille printed addendum available that goes with the e-text with applicable embossed images. Seems to me to be a non-problem that can be solved with five minutes of thought.

JLawson,The questi... (Below threshold)


The question is not whether those problems can be fixed, it is whether they are already fixed before the Kindle is adopted as the standard.






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