Arizona State University is one of six schools of higher education that are planning to deploy the Kindle DX this fall. They are, however, coming under fire from both the National Federation of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind over its use.
The two organizations have jointly filed suit against ASU in an attempt to stop the Kindle’s planned usage. While the Kindle does include a text-to-speech feature, all menus and navigation, including the ability to activate text-to-speech, are completely inaccessible to blind students. According to the lawsuit, if any University uses the Kindle as their primary means of textbook distribution, it is in clear violation of federal accessibility standards. A press release detailing the plaintiff’s position can be found here.
Public Universities, being governmental institutions, are required by federal law to meet strict guidelines regarding accessibility. Since the Kindle clearly does not meet these guidelines, there only seems to be two possible ways this could turn out: Either ASU (and the five other schools) cancel their plans to use the Kindle, or Amazon releases an update which adds accessibility features to the Kindle Store and menus. It would be a relatively simple software change for Amazon to make, so hopefully that is the route that things take. Then, the only problem would be the legal issues surrounding text-to-speech itself.