Thursday, December 6, 2012

WCB Letter to Jeff Bezos about accessibility and Kindle textbooks

RantWoman really can still generate her own content; RantWoman also gets to be grateful when circumstances require rants and others unite with RantWoman's point of view and help present the needed agitation. Here is a letter from the WA Council forthe Blind to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Amazon is seeking to enter the lucrative textbook business but they want to do this on platforms that are considerably less than fully accessible.

Washington Council of the Blind
P.O. Box 3127
Bremerton, WA 98310
(360) 689-0827

December 4, 2012

Jeff Bezos, Chief Executive Officer, Inc.
1200 12th Ave. S., Ste. 1200
Seattle, WA 98144-2734

Dear Mr. Bezos:

I am writing to you on behalf of the Washington Council of the Blind,a consumer organization over 400 members strong.

We have been made aware that schools are purchasing kindles for their classrooms, and that the Whispercast software is being used so thatdocuments, emails, and textbooks can easily be synced to whatever kindle device a student is using. We understand that this providesflexibility for educators, and easy access for students—unless those students are blind.

While there have certainly been some major strides in the accessibility of the Kindle such as TTS and voice guides, there has been no improvement of either one. The device is sixty percentaccessible, and what is currently out there is not nearly enough so that a blind child can compete with his or her peers on an equal playing field. There is no way to accessibly navigate by word, spell words out, go line by line, or a number of other navigational techniques that others can easily track with their eyes. Not every feature of the Kindle is accessible, and it absolutely should be.

There has not been progress on the accessibility front of the kindle for about three years, despite repeated letters and offers of testing and providing feedback, and it causes people to be concerned that there is a lack of care on Amazon's part. Apple has done a very good job at implementing accessibility. Recently, Barnes and Noble has come out with an iPhone ap that is completely accessible. We believe that the Kindle should be accessible out of the box and that every feature be made available for blind users.

Amazon is a big player in the creation of ebook reading platforms and we implore you to do everything in your power to ensure, that as these devices become more prevalent in the classroom, students who are blind will have equal access, ample opportunity, and greater independence when it comes to their education. In this vein, the Washington Councilof the Blind stands ready to assist you in any way we can to ensure reading accessibility for all.

Cindy Van Winkle, President
Washington Council of the Blind

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