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Sony, Amazon Want Accessibility Exemption


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Some of the biggest names in technology are asking the Federal Communications Commission for a pass when it comes to making all of their products accessible to people with disabilities.

Under federal rules, equipment used for advanced communications services, or ACS, must be “accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities.”

If, Sony and Kobo have their way, however, that won’t include e-readers. The companies have come together in an attempt to persuade government regulators that e-readers should not be held to the same accessibility standard as tablets and other devices since they are limited to one core feature — reading.

“E-readers simply are not designed, built, or marketed for ACS, and the public understands the distinction between e-readers and general-purpose tablets,” the companies argue in a petition to the FCC in which they ask for an exemption for reading devices including the Amazon Kindle E-Reader, the Sony Reader and the Kobo Glo.

“Rendering ACS accessible on e-readers would require fundamentally altering the devices to be more like general-purpose tablets in cost, form factor, weight, user interface and reduced battery life, and yet the necessary changes, if they were made, would not yield a meaningful benefit to individuals with disabilities,” the letter states.

Disability advocates say that the arguments brought forth by the e-reader makers fall short, however, since at least some of the devices are being marketed for use in schools.

“Make the devices accessible because you have to,” Chris Danielsen of the National Federation of the Blind told Bloomberg Businessweek. “They’re not just being used for pleasure reading; they are being used for education.”

The FCC is soliciting public comment on the matter through Sept. 3.

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Comments (15 Responses)

  1. Rhonda says:

    This is going to open Sony, Amazon, Kobo open for discrimination cases if they don’t have all their products they sell to the public to be used by everybody! What about the kids in school? If they don’t I will buy any brand but Sony, Amazon, Kobo!!!

  2. Adriana says:

    Yes, because disabled people are only the ones who are in wheelchairs, and even those are not fully human so why make sure we are all included in life. Let’s just forget about what human beings need, or only care about what the “real” human beings need.
    Outrageous! If this exemption is granted, it means the FCC will be violating the right of disabled people to equal access.

  3. vmgillen says:

    And this sort of nonsense is why Barnes and Noble wins my business over Amazon.

  4. L. Gunther says:

    Thought that advanced technology was to help eliminate barriers to communicate, etc. Instead, it’s focused on smaller everything which requires dexterity skills and visual markers beyond the ability of many people I know, including myself.

  5. Stacey Frith-Smith says:

    Do you happen to have the header for the FCC’s “rulemaking” drop-down on their commentary page? I can’t seem to find a related title.

  6. Linda says:

    I have to say I agree with the companies on this one and usually that is not the case. E readers are simply for reading and not for advanced anything.

  7. Michael C. McGregor says:

    I believe that we all must stand up for each other at all times . That is the only way we can move society forward were every body has true access to life that others have. Wether it pertains to people with any disablty,or girls and women going to school , work or just being able to drive a car, or the right to worship as ones religion subscribes with out the interference by others or the right to vote with out any difficulties . Because there will always be trouble in the world until the whole world recongizes the rights of everyone to be treated totally equal in every way to everyone else on this planet. We are one race , We are the Human Race that is all ,our abilities , disabilities, color , sex , religion , should not cause fricthen between people and greed sholud not be a cause to limited access to life in the fullest. People quote the 10 commenmeents but forget the Golden Rule and the Beatiudes . Every religion I know of can be broken down to one Golden Rule : Treat everyone as you would like to be treated or simply: Do no Harm as you walk thru life. I might be off base but I just think everybody should have the same right of access to everything as everybody else in all things.

  8. S ledingham says:

    The only feature where I can see this really applying on the Amazon Kindle readers with the text-to-computer-speech. In the past this feature is being included on fewer and fewer of the Amazon Kindle readers. There is an ongoing discussion in the online Amazin discussion groups about this very issue. Many if us rely on this feature to be able to read our books. The need ranges from individuals with ADD, dyslexia and other spectrum disorders who listen while they read or may choose to listen and “read” that way. There also appears to be a group of people who, like myself experience vision related issues and find it necessary to use the the text to speech (TTS) to augment and/order enable us to read. I also think a significant number of the aged do much better with a combination of TTS. In the discussion group we are very concerned that Amazon is eliminating the TTS features to reduce comparison with its other division, Audable, which makes and sell audio versions (using human readers) and selling those in addition to the printed books.
    This seems like such a simple feature for Amazon to include I have trouble understanding why the would want to stop doing that just to save two or three dollars on the cost of an e-book reader. In the past, the only option available for affordable” books on tape” was the foundation for the blind, which many of the people in this group would not qualify for.

  9. Marsha says:

    I can understand requiring that some models offer text-to-speech, but I do not think it is reasonable to require that they all do. Yes, accessibility is important, but why should I have to pay more, and carry a heavier device, for a feature I will never use? I have a number of Kindles. Some have TTS; some don’t. I happen to prefer the ones that don’t. It should be my choice. Others can choose the models that do. I don’t want my choices limited by their needs.

  10. Elizabeth Mueller says:

    Please do not allow Sony &/or Amazon to follow through with this ADA Change. This will affect many people with disabilities. We have this FCC rule for a reason “Under federal rules, equipment used for advanced communications services, or ACS, must be “accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities.” Thank you

  11. Kennon says:

    As an advocate for individuals with disabilities. (I work as an A.T. coordinator) I still believe in a free market and I am very skeptical of mandating by law that every company make every product accessible. Attempting to force all companies to be all things to all people, and with all products, is a practical impossibility. I believe that attempting to do so would ultimately hinder the development of many quality specialized devices. Companies should be encouraged to provide accessible products, but it makes sense to tailor specific products for specific populations. On the other hand, I do very much believe that there is a vested public interest in providing technologies for access, and that grant monies should be available to encourage development of accessible products, but only when there is not sufficient market incentive for certain segments of the population. The goal would be to provide alternate products with equal price point, and when that price point cannot be met economically, then as a society we provide the assistance needed to obtain the technology for the individual. Support yes, mandate no!

  12. Paul Kurtz says:

    I think that Sony and Amazon either should be required to have all equipment accessible or immediately be required to make all books ready for NLS distribution.

    I also think that Apple has proved over 3-4 years tht batter life issues with accessible equipment is a spurious issue.

  13. Joy Zabala says:

    I am rather amazed at this statement!

    The companies have come together in an attempt to persuade government regulators that e-readers should not be held to the same accessibility standard as tablets and other devices since they are limited to one core feature — reading.

    Reading is a very important human function and any device that supports the reading of people WITHOUT disabilities should also support the reading of people WITH disabilities. For the government to give a PASS on accessibility to manufacturers of reading devices is unconscionable! (And, for companies to even REQUEST such a pass is highly offensive!) The requirement should be in place. If it is not, no effort will be made to improve and broaden the effective use of the devices. For a company to intentionally create products that, by the way they are designed, predetermine who can and who cannot use their devices seems to be a strange marketing strategy. Further, to have such predetermination based on disability seems to be a violation of many federal statutes and policies.

  14. Roses says:

    To allow giant corporations to exempt their educational and much needed devices from people with disabilities are a sin of pure greed. As a society. we have lost touch with kindness, empathy, and giving so it says in the Bible. We live in a world of ME…that’s why we are seeing so much destruction, unimaginable weather, and the crumbling of our economy…God is not happy! These conglomerates needs a heart. if not consumers should Boycott

  15. Anita says:

    To Adriana:

    What do you mean the disabled are “NOT FULLY HUMAN”? We are just as human as everyone and it’s seems very apparent that you are the one who is not fully human!!!!!!

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