Imagine having visual problems and trying to deal with the new world of ebooks and digital information. Most ebook vendors (and especially Amazon) have been dragging their feet when it comes to accessibility.
I was asked to look at this for a blog entry in Information Today's NewsBreaks and gladly took on the assignment. It allowed me to look at Amazon's activities with Kindle over the past few years. How they
I was able to get the reactions and comments of many experts whose opinions I respect on all of this. One of these is Jim Denham, assistive technology coordinator at the Perkins School for the Blind. He made this important comment:
"The accessibility improvements to the Amazon Kindle iOS app opens a whole new library of reading materials for persons who are blind. Historically, titles available in the Amazon Kindle store have been, at best, only marginally accessible to individuals who rely on screen reading software. As many books and magazines are available only via Amazon, this meant individuals who were blind had very little access to this content. This long awaited app upgrade finally resolves these issues and has resulted in individuals who are blind gaining full access to all text-based materials available from Amazon. As an individual who is blind, I appreciate these long-awaited accessibility improvements and am thankful that I, as a screen reader user, now have the same access to Amazon Kindle books that my sighted colleagues have enjoyed for years."
Accessibility isn't just a good idea - it's the law. More than 40 years ago, Section 502 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 legally codified the concept of accessibility--and this was followed by the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 (amended in 1976), the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (amended in 2009), and Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act (2009). Simply put, these laws require businesses (with 15 or more employees), government agencies, and those nonprofit service providers to make accessibility accommodations to enable the disabled to access the same services as non-disabled. For a company such as Amazon, which has been courting educational markets for years, this lapse in planning and execution of products is a mystery.
If this is something of interest to you, you might want to give the article a good read.