Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at thinking, intelligent individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

"No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it." Ayn Rand

09 August 2010

Kindle, A Public Enemy

Yes, our Progressive, Nanny State government declared Kindle a public enemy.  The Amazon reader was to be used in an experiment for some college courses as a replacement for larger, heavier, and more expensive textbooks.  Case Western Reserve University, Arizona State University, and Princeton University planned to use Kindle for a few classes last academic year, but the Justice Department threatened them with legal action.  Specifically, Thomas Perez, the head of the Civil Rights Division told them they were under investigation for violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

It turns out that the National Federation of the Blind and other activist groups have been critical of the Kindle, because its menu functions require sight.  Kindle will read books out loud, but a sighted person had to set that up.  But curiously when you ask how this affects a university course, the blind are not able to read standard textbooks either.  Go figure.  Now, it may be that many popular textbooks are on audio and a blind student can acquire the audio versions, but can't they do that anyway even if the textbook is on Kindle?  Besides, the Princeton program, for example, consisted of three courses and none of the 51 students involved were blind.

So, perhaps the National Federation of the Blind was just upset that sighted students will not have to lug around many heavy and large textbooks anymore!  This seems to be spiteful.  If the NFB wanted improvements to the Kindle to make it easier for blind people to use, the best route was to allow the Kindle a larger market.  With a larger market, Amazon can better afford to make improvements or special products for the blind.  Perhaps, the NFB, rather then trusting to the goodwill of Amazon, was preventing the use of the Kindle as a form of hostage-taking to force Amazon into making improvements in the Kindle for the benefit of the blind.  This extortion was probably what was really happening.

The Justice Department settled with the schools in early 2010 and the NFB settled with Arizona State University.  The schools agreed they would not use Kindle until all students could use them.  Amazon had previously told the NFB that it was working on text-to-speech technology for the next Kindle model menu and function keys and that is now available.  The entire affair has been a tempest in a teapot.

But, our ever intrepid Justice Department is working up a much bigger and meddlesome project.  Perez is trying to get the Internet declared a "public accommodation" under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Apparently, every website will have to have text-to-speech accommodation.  What will this do to the costs of small company websites?  No doubt, many larger companies will embrace this as a means to help eliminate the competition potential of many smaller companies.

Perhaps this will also become a way to get rid of pesky bloggers such as myself.  This blog might be forced to be accommodating to the blind.  Then again, maybe it already is and I just do not know how blind people access it.  One day, I may have to know more about this.  The government has millions working for it and many, many of them are sort of hard at work trying to give each of us millions of mandates so we will be sure to have no spare time.  We are constantly being told:  "In your copious free time, you will do this and this and this and this and this and ............................................................................................................................"


JohnJEnright said...

This is beyond ridiculous. Thanks for writing about it.

Charles R. Anderson, Ph.D. said...

Thanks for your comment John. I can only agree that it is "beyond ridiculous." This kind of technology will open many new opportunities for blind people, which is great. The inability to see that was in itself inexcusable. It is rather like shooting the baby because it cannot yet do productive work.