Friday, November 14, 2014

Kindle, Amazon + the FCC: A good day for the disabled ahead?

Don't know how many of you follow what's happening with the Kindle, Amazon, and the FCC. Essentially, in my understanding what happened is Amazon made changes to the Kindles that makes it so certain people with disabilities can't use Kindles. Specifically, Amazon removed a 3.5mm audio jack from its Kindle e-readers, among other changes, which makes the basic Kindles unusable to persons with print disabilities.

Federal law requires equipment used for advanced communication services (ACS) be accessible to, and usable by, individuals with disabilities.

In January, the FCC granted a one-year waiver to allow Kindle and others to continue to be available on sale. The waiver is expiring and it looks like Amazon may be forced by the FCC to upgrade the capabilities of all Kindles to accommodate the needs of the disabled. However, Amazon is fighting for more waivers.

The American Library Association and the Association of Research Libraries are among the leading voices urging the changes: According to the Opposition to Coalition of E-Reader  Manufacturers' Petition for Waiver (

What do you think? My .02: Amazon never should have removed such capabilities knowing that the changes would make basic Kindles useless to persons with print disabilities. The audio jack and the related components likely aren't more than $1.25 - $1.75 of cost to produce a Kindle.

The ALA and ARL are urging changes. I support those changes and hope you will too in your social media.

E-readers allow those with visual impairments to enjoy printed words they otherwise might not have access to--and just as importantly, in ways they otherwise would not be able to. In the US alone, there are around 7 million people with a visual disability, according to a 2012 report from the National Federation of the Blind.

Without such ready access to printed words in books, newspapers, magazines, and beyond, those with visual impairments must often go without or rely on less tenable means of access.


Robert Stanek

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