January 12, 2010

ASU, Kindle Lawsuit Settled

A lawsuit filed against Arizona State University for using Amazon's Kindle DX e-reader device has been settled, reported the Associated Press.

The National Federation of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind teamed up with a blind ASU student last June to file a lawsuit against ASU for taking part in a pilot program using the $489 Kindle DX, a large-screen model for reading textbooks and newspapers. They alleged that it was a violation of federal law to use a device that is not accessible to blind students.

On Monday, the blindness organizations and ASU announced the settlement. Instead of there being any form of payment of damages or attorney's fees, the groups cited ASU's pledge to provide access to all of its programs for students with disabilities, and the decision that the pilot program was scheduled to end this spring.

While the university denies that the pilot program is a violation of any law, it did say that if e-book readers are in its future classes over the coming years, "it will strive to use devices that are accessible to the blind," according to the statement.

The Kindle has a read-aloud feature to help the visually impaired, but turning it on requires going through screens of text menus. According to the federation, the device should be able to speak the menu options.

The groups representing the blind said that another reason for the settlement was that Amazon.com Inc. and other companies were currently working to improve the accessibility of the e-book readers for the visually impaired.

In December, Amazon announced that it will be adding audible menus, and is designing an extra-large font for people with impaired vision.

Amazon said last month that both improvements should be seen in Kindle's by next summer.


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