ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) submitted comments to the FCC in response to a petition from the E-reader Coalition Petition of Class Waiver of Commission’s rules for Access to Advanced Communications and Services (ACS) for People with Disabilities. The E-reader Coalition–Amazon, Sony and Kobo– assert that their e-readers were manufactured for the sole purpose of reading text, therefore they should not be required to comply with FCC regulations that e-readers be accessible. After all, people with print and other disabilities don’t read, right?
The E-reader Coalition suggests that e-readers are a different class of product. They do not have all of the functionalities of a quality tablet or smart phone. Instead the e-reader is a “stripped down” device, manufactured to be subpar because some consumers just want a simple e-reader. At the same time, the Coalition says that if they were required to make e-readers accessible (enabling text-to-speech) people with print and other disabilities would find the quality subpar (Apparently, subpar products are fine for some people but not for others). Furthermore, the public interest would not be served because many consumers want the choice of purchasing a simple e-reader, with no extra functionalities that would distract them from reading. Adding text-to-speech functionality to a simple e-reader supposedly would disturb readers.
Sometimes, you just have to shake your head.
In our response in opposition to the petition, we note that people with print disabilities actually read. They also are consumers who buy e-books. They also like to have choice in the marketplace when buying an e-reader. And if this wasn’t obvious enough, allowing the E-reader Coalition an exemption would be discriminatory. We know that because the Justice Department has sued libraries who loan inaccessible e-readers because it is discriminatory.