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 Amazon.com, 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.