Sony & Amazon Ask to Exempt E-readers from Accessibility Law

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BrailleA group of e-reader manufacturers including Amazon, Sony, and Kobo, are petitioning the Federal Communications Commission to exempt the devices from federal accessibility laws. The 21st Century Communications and Video Act  (CVAA), which was signed into law in 2010, requires that "equipment used for advanced communications services [ACS], including end user equipment" be "accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities." In the petition to the FCC, the manufacturers argue that e-readers are devised for one sole purpose: to read text, and therefore should not provide the same accessibility features as other advanced electronic devices, such as tablets.

Should e-readers be accessible to the blind?

The companies behind the petition claim that being forced to provide accessibility features would make e-readers more expensive and similar to tablets. "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 petition argues. As far as providing access to users who are disabled, the manufacturers state that "individuals with disabilities have better ACS options on devices other than e-readers. Today, many Americans choose to own both a tablet and an e-reader."

Disability advocates, however, see the issue differently, especially due to the increased use of e-readers in the classroom. "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 asking for public feedback on the issue until September 3rd.

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